Honesty is a policy around here, so let's be blunt: Knicks basketball, quite simply, is not something one watches if one can avoid it. Is that harsh? Hey, Knicks fans agree with me! Not convinced? Consider these two recent stories on the Knicks:
- Henry Abbott on TrueHoop pointed out that the success of D'Antoni's 7SOL Suns depended largely on Steve Nash, and that because he no longer has a point guard like Nash, he's not getting the same results in New York. Or anything close. The point was about Nash, but a secondary implied point is that the Knicks s-u-c-k.
- Chris Sheridan, in an article on what is wrong with the Celtics (take a deep breath ... doesn't the air just smell so fresh right now?), had the following to say about the hated Cs' visit to Madison Square Garden: "I am not a Celtics fan, which put me in the minority Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden (where the loudest cheers were for, in order: Kevin Garnett's game-winning shot, Will Ferrell's appearance on the video board, the Knicks' gritty effort)."
You get the point. While Golden State fans have loyally cheered for a franchise that in no way deserves their support, and a team that has made it to the playoffs once in the last fifteen years, even the Knicks' own fans have essentially given up all hope for this team. For this year, at least.
But then, as Kobe Bryant would surely point out (and as Boston nearly proved), that's exactly why you need to be careful of games like this one.
Kobe would call this a "trap game," because the opponent is so bad that the Lakers could be lulled into thinking their victory automatic. They could come out lackadaisical and lazy, play with a sense of undeserved entitlement, and expect to win without having to earn it. I'm just sayin'.
As Boston almost found out, that's a good way to lose to the Knicks (I just threw up in my mouth a little).
Let's be serious, though. The bottom line is that the Lakers should blow the Knicks out of the water, but if they don't put forth a good effort for at least two quarters (please, I'm not going to pretend the Knicks are worthy of more effort than Detroit), then it's entirely possible for NY to get hot and beat L.A.
Assuming the Lakers do put forth the 1.5- to 2-quarter requirement of necessary effort, this game should be a third straight blowout. The Knicks don't have a defensive answer for ... uh, anyone. Because the Knicks don't play defense. Against the Celtics, maybe you can get hot and get lucky. Against the Lakers, with Kobe, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest on the same team, you can't just let us have our way when we have the ball. But that's most likely exactly what will happen.
Kobe can beat these guys single-handedly. We know this; we have seen it happen. However, the mentality of this team at this specific moment in time is quite different from the one that needed a boost from Kobe after losing Bynum (again), and got it in the form of 61 points and a couple MSG records. This Lakers squad is playing team basketball. They are at full capacity, untouchable when they play together, and they seem to know it. And they should, given their early "struggles" (only a couple teams in this league could use that word in reference to the Lakers' first 11 games), and the way they've played in the last couple games.
Likewise, I don't see the Knicks really having an answer for Pau Gasol or the recently dominant Andrew Bynum. Expect the Lake Show to continue its dominance in the paint, with Gasol and Bynum taking turns in the deep post, Kobe slashing, and mere role players like Artest, Odom, and Fisher picking up the pieces.
Defensively, these Knicks are very stoppable for our long, versatile Lakers squad. Danilo Gallinari is really their only efficient player, offensively, and Ron Artest will likely be tasked to basically make us forget he even suited up. Al Harrington has had a couple good games recently, and when he does the Knicks play well — but Harrington playing "well" (by most of our standards, at least) isn't something very many of us would confidently bet on.
Nate Robinson can get to the rim and hit threes when he's on, and he's given us fits in the past. Fisher's defense has been pretty good recently, though I still wouldn't bet on him containing Nate all on his own. Bynum and Gasol will need to be part of that.
Gasol's return is a Good Thing against these Knicks, who used the pick-n-roll and pick-n-pop very heavily to almost beat Boston. Gasol is our best big man at defending the PnR, so having him back in the lineup means good things both offensively and defensively.
At the end of the day, this Lakers team is on a major roll right now, and very much enjoying Gasol's return — and I don't think that quasi-honeymoon period is quite over yet. I expect Gasol to continue making things easy for the Lakers on both ends of the floor, and I don't expect the Lakers to forget Phil Jackson's lessons on defense and turnovers after only one game. And I expect another blowout.
And at least one more monstrous Shannon Brown throw-down, please.