After dropping their first game of the New Year, the Los Angeles Lakers (21-17) will host the New York Knicks (9-29) for what will be their first matchup of the regular season. For L.A., this game couldn’t have come soon enough.
For the fifth consecutive games, the Lakers will be without LeBron James, the self-proclaimed King of New York, and Rajon Rondo. There’s a chance they’ll also be missing Kyle Kuzma, who suffered a back contusion against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. Kuzma is listed as questionable.
On any other day, this would be a pretty big problem for the Lakers, whose depth at the power forward position has been limited to Kuzma and James in recent weeks. However, Michael Beasley, who returned from his personal leave of absence on Friday, may give L.A. another option:
Michael Beasley has rejoined the Lakers following the death of his mother. He was away from the team for several weeks while she battled cancer.— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 4, 2019
Plus, the Knicks have been so bad this season that the Lakers’ injury woes might not matter.
The Knicks have lost 13 of their last 15 games, including eight consecutive games leading up to Friday. In three of those games, they’ve lost by at least 20 points.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Knicks are ranked second-to-last in the league in defensive rating, allowing 113.5 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers, despite their recent slippage, are still among the top-10 teams in defensive rating (106.5).
Offensively, the Knicks pose very little threat to the Lakers either. New York averages 107.6 points per game as a team while shooting 43.4 percent from the field, which is ranked 29th in the league.
Even the Lakers, as bad as they’ve been over the past four games, are a more productive and efficient team offensively than the Knicks.
There’s no such thing as a guaranteed win without LeBron James, but this is about as close as the Lakers can get to it. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. at Spectrum SportsNet.