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Lakers vs. Knicks Preview: Can L.A. continue to get production from their G League players?

The Lakers have wisely begun handing out minutes to their young players — namely their G League talent — and they have not disappointed.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers and Knicks are set to face off within the storied Madison Square Garden arena Sunday morning in a game that ultimately will not carry the weight it should, considering it’s a battle between (historically) the league’s two glitziest franchises. But this is the unfortunate reality that the Lakers and Knicks find themselves in, partly by their own doing.

All it takes is a quick look at the standings to see that neither of these teams will make the postseason, and are instead gearing towards lottery night with dreams of ping pong balls bringing them Zion Williamson. The Knicks, and their 13-56 record, will obviously be in the driver’s seat in this regard.

But while the winner of this contest is not entirely important at this stage of the season, if nothing else the game should provide the chance to see plenty of young talent on the floor. Oh, and maybe even that LeBron James guy, in one of his favorite arenas for the first time in a Lakers uniform.

For the Lakers, this recent stretch of relatively meaningless games has wisely been used for lineup experimentation and allotting minutes to previously unused players, namely their G League talent, who have provided encouraging — and fun — results.

Basketball’s very own version of “The Outsiders” — consisting of Alex Caruso, Johnathan Williams, Isaac Bonga and honorary member Moe Wagner — have added a desperately needed spark in what has been an otherwise bland couple of weeks of on-court entertainment.

Caruso, the 25-year-old lead guard who has spent nearly all his second season with a two-way contract with the South Bay Lakers, continues to impress within his opportunity as the team’s primary backup point guard. In his last five games, Caruso is averaging 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 57.6/50/88.2 shooting splits.

It’s been an eye-opening stretch for a player who was unable to sniff the floor for the main roster this season. He also has been able to boast buddy-cop levels of chemistry with James himself, as the team is a +6.1 per 100 possessions when the two share the floor on the season.

While the young group have collectively played well and made the most of their recent opportunity, it will be interesting to see how they handle the bright lights of the Mecca as up to this point, they have generally been put in low-pressure situations since being inserted into the rotation.

While both squads are nowhere near the upper-echelon status of the league they previously were, there should still be a little extra motivation from both parties to put on a good show in the matinee game.

These final games on the Lakers’ slate will ultimately not make any seismic impact in the grand scope of things, but it does allow the team’s brass to evaluate several players heading into yet another crucial offseason.

For a player like Caruso, these games are not simply running out the clock of a disappointing season, but it is possibly his last chance of sticking around, an important human reminder in what otherwise could be seen as a “meaningless” game.

The Lakers will take on the Knicks at 9:00 a.m. PST on Spectrum Sportsnet. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.

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