After their best stretch of the season, the Lakers had to lose eventually and that day came Sunday, as they fell to the New York Knicks 112-108 in the final game of their five-game homestand. The Lakers are now 33-35 on the season, and their quest for .500 will be delayed.
Julius Randle’s physicality and foul-drawing gave the Lakers fits all game as he finished with 33 points against his former team. RJ Barrett also had a big offensive night scoring 30 points but it was the other former Laker Josh Hart who closed out the Lakers with a pair of free throws in the final seconds.
After a quiet outing against Toronto, Anthony Davis was neutralized again on Sunday, with New York doubling him every moment he received the ball on the block early on. D’Angelo Russell helped cancel that out with his best performance as a Laker, scoring 33 points and hitting 6-11 from deep.
Despite cold shooting from the non-Russell starters, the Lakers did once again get good production from up and down the depth chart with six players in double digits. Still, it wasn’t enough as the Knicks made a fourth-quarter push and closed the Lakers’ late run out.
To start the game, the Lakers got an early seven-point lead and were shooting 40% from three. It looked like L.A. was on pace for another impressive victory. No lead is safe, however, much less a first-quarter one and Julius Randle reminded everyone why the Lakers drafted him 7th overall in 2014. He went off scoring 18 points in the opening frame to give the Knicks a four-point lead after one.
18 points for Randle on 7 free throw attempts in the first quarter, Lakers trail by 4.— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) March 13, 2023
A game removed from their huge performance, the Lakers’ bench struggled to keep pace when Davis and Russell sat. Once the duo checked back in however, the Lakers’ offense was able to get back on track. The pick-and-roll game between Davis and Russell specifically, ran like a dream and the first half concluded with the Lakers down by just a possession.
After an early Knicks’ push, a 12-0 run by the Lakers late in the third gave them the lead heading into the fourth. The main question was how long would Ham sit Davis and Russell to start the final 12 minutes?
Turns out not that long.
Dennis Schröder and the Lakers matched the Knicks basket for basket to start the final frame and Russell and Davis came back in at the 8:59 mark down by just two. Despite the duo’s return, the Knicks applied rim pressure with RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Randle, as the deficit quickly grew to double-digits.
The Lakers ultimately surged late and cut the lead to two in the closing seconds, but former Laker Josh Hart’s pair of clutch free-throws sealed the game for New York.
Davis and the Lakers will have to figure out a counter to the double-teams that will continue to be thrown his way while LeBron James is gone. Can he just continue to pass to the open man and trust his teammates to make shots? Maybe. But how long will that work before some regression happens and the lack of star power leads to more losses? He can’t be schemed out of each game. He needs to find a way to stay impactful.
No time to mourn a loss for the purple and gold however, as they are on the road this week and play another pivotal game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Every game is important, but these games are worth a little more as the Lakers continue their trek toward the postseason.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.