The home loss to Cleveland still stings, but believe it or not, the sky isn’t falling and the Knicks aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention just yet. It’s going to take a lot of victories and a little luck for New York to sneak in, and it all starts with a road matchup against
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Nick Young and the Los Angeles Lakers.
New York will kick off a five-game West Coast trip against the not-your-ordinary Lakers. 2014 marks the first time in 20 years that both the Lakers and Celtics will be absent from the NBA Playoffs, and I think I can speak for most of Knicks Nation when I say that it’s hard to feel bad for them. Los Angeles currently sits at 23-46, just one game ahead of Utah for last place in the rough Western Conference. Pretty much nothing has gone right for them this season, whether it be Kobe Bryant’s knees, Steve Nash’s back, or Phil Jackson’s omission. Pau Gasol, who has been relatively healthy this season, is listed as doubtful after a nasty bout with vertigo left him hospitalized. As much as it sounds like the Knicks are catching a break, don’t forget that Kyrie Irving sat out Sunday’s game, thrusting Jarret Jack into a featured role. Candidates to bury the Knicks in Gasol’s absence include Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill (yes, that Jordan Hill), and Robert Sacre, whose bench celebrations are rivaled only by Tim Hardaway Jr.
Injury-wise, it’s been just one of those years for Los Angeles, but they’ve still managed to rank in the top half of the league in points per game. This should come as no surprise to those of you who stuck around during the often-painful Mike D’Antoni era. The D’Antoni Lakers rank 12th in points scored (102.0 per game), but second to last in points allowed (108.6 per game). There’s literally no one on the roster who can come close to guarding Carmelo Anthony, so expect tons of isolation ball. The city of LA has a growing disdain for D’Antoni, mostly because he isn’t Phil Jackson, but also because he isn’t Kobe Bryant’s cup of tea either. If the Knicks get off to a hot start, things could get ugly quick.
There’s no more time for excuses for New York. The Lakers aren’t the Lakers anymore, and the Knicks need every win they can get. Tonight has to be the start of a new winning streak, regardless of opponent or location.
The Hawks did the Knicks a favor by losing to the Suns last night, meaning New York is just two and a half games out of a playoff spot. They’ll need to win to keep the pressure on. It’s a late tip-off (10:30 to be precise) and the game will be aired on TNT, so brace yourself for tons of Charles Barkley’s usual Knicks bashing. As always, TOK will have you covered.