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Lakers vs. Knicks Preview: Recovering from a heartbreaking loss

The Lakers will be given another chance to regroup, rebuild and regain momentum on Saturday against the Knicks.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

After a heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will have to move on and face the struggling New York Knicks at home on Saturday. The purple and gold can’t undo their mistakes from Thursday’s defeat, but they can certainly learn from them. Like they have had many times this season, L.A. will be given another chance to regroup, rebuild and regain momentum on Saturday.

How do they do just that? Well, for starters, they can try to avoid nearly blowing a 13-point lead (something they did against the Portland Trail Blazers) or trailing by 17 points (something they did against the Clippers). They might want to protect the ball more because they’ve given it away 26 times combined in the past two games. And also, maybe, help Anthony Davis (who had a total of 60 points and 32 rebounds in the past two games) more, especially early on in the game.

Sadly, all these solutions above are just a few of the many the purple and gold have yet to really take advantage of this season. Their offense badly needs more movement and less iso basketball. Their defense needs to be tightened up, specifically inside the paint and outside the 3-point line, areas where both the Blazers and Clippers torched them.

That said, here are three more strategies the Lakers might want to focus on for Saturday’s game:

AD and Malik Monk ball screens

If there’s something the Lakers can build off after Thursday’s game, it’s the growing pick-and-roll chemistry between AD and Monk.

Monk, who put up an impressive stat line of 21 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in the loss, successfully assisted AD three times in those ball screen actions. This gave the Clippers huge problems in the first half.

Just look at this clip below and see how smooth this pairing can run the pick-and-roll:

Davis and Monk have to do this more often, especially since the Lakers will need the latter to score more with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James both possibly out on Saturday.

Get Russell Westbrook to the basket

Westbrook played a huge role in the Lakers’ 17-point comeback vs. the Clippers, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half. This version of Russ needs to show up earlier in the game to lessen the scoring burden on AD. Westbrook found rhythm by getting to the rim thanks to some solid screens from Dwight Howard and AD. The Lakers might want to run more north-south actions for their starting point guard to get him going throughout the game.

The Lakers will need Westbrook’s scoring and playmaking against New York’s stout defense — which ranks 12th in the league while allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions on Saturday. They can’t allow the Knicks’ defensive approach to entice them to settle for more wasted isolation possessions.

Do the dirty work, and do it well

Frank Vogel mentioned after Thursday’s loss that the team did a good job getting stops and preventing the Clippers from getting inside the paint towards the latter part of the third quarter. Not doing so earlier was one of several self-inflicted issues for the Lakers, who have to do a better job of minimizing their self-inflicted mistakes. Instead, their role players have to do more of the dirty work by boxing out, rebounding and playing hard on defense from the tip-off.

As seen on this clip below, Talen Horton Tucker (fastbreak block), Austin Reaves (block), Stanley Johnson (steal) provide most of these types of hustle plays on Thursday. These three have to continue doing this to contribute to winning basketball and perhaps earn more minutes moving forward.

The Lakers are 1-4 in their last five games. Most of their losses have come in heartbreaking fashion, or were caused by preventable errors. The only way they can really recover from this, besides getting healthy, is to perform better, adjust to their new roles and learn from their errors. They’ll get their next chance to do so against New York.

Notes and Updates

  • Like the Lakers, the Knicks (24-28) have been underwhelming this season. They ranked 24th (just below the Lakers) on offense (108.2) but do their damage best on defense. Former Laker and reigning Most Improved Player of the Year awardee Julius Randle has had a down season, and is currently involved in trade talks.
  • Carmelo Anthony strained his right hamstring, keeping him out in the second half of Thursday’s game. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Anthony is expected to be day-to-day moving forward.
  • According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, LeBron James could possibly return to the lineup soon.
  • As usual, Kendrick Nunn (bone bruise) will be out tomorrow. According to Vogel, Nunn said he felt good after his recent workout and is expected to ramp up in the next few days.
  • The Lakers released their injury report, and it looks like LeBron James won’t be available for this one.

The Lakers are back on their home floor, but this game will be earlier than usual. They will tip off against the Knicks at 5:30 pm P.T. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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