The New York Knicks (16-5), coming off of an inspiring comeback win vs Brooklyn, face a Los Angeles Lakers (9-13) team (tonight at 8 PM) that's on the verge of their longest losing streak since the 2010-2011 season.
While there are many interesting facets to this game, none will be brought to the forefront more than Mike D'Antoni returning to the Garden for the first time since his resignation last March. Since then, both teams have certainly taken different paths. Under the leadership of Mike Woodson, the Knicks currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are exuding a type of confidence that hasn't been seen at the Garden in quite awhile. The Knicks take an 8-0 record at home (or according to JR Smith 9-1 with the Brooklyn games included) into this game, while the Lakers are 2-7 on the road.
The Lakers are dealing with similar issues on the defensive side of the ball that the Knicks had to deal with under D'Antoni's tutelage. Whether its due to lack of effort, or the fact that he doesn't have the right personnel, is yet to be seen, though the fact remains that this is a struggling team. The Lakers are 4-8 under D'Antoni, and currently are a team waiting to explode. While the Lakers have been without Nash since October 31, as well as Pau Gasol for the last 5 games, it is still no excuse to see the lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball from a veteran team.
We all know Kobe will show up and be ready for this game(averaging 34.6 ppg at MSG), but limiting the contributions of his counterparts will be the key. Even though incumbent Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler has not been playing lockdown defense consistently, his matchup vs. Dwight Howard still swings in the Knicks favor. Tyson is the type of player that can get under Dwight's skin, and take away his interest from the game. Dwight Averaged 9.3 PPG vs the Knicks last season.
The Knicks are battling some injuries themselves. J.R. Smith (Back Spasms) as well as Carmelo Anthony (Finger) are probable to play. In addition, Shumpert, Camby, and Amar'e Stoudemire will remain inactive as they rehab and get closer to return.
The biggest key to the game is getting off to a fast start. The Lakers are a ticking time bomb and if you get up on them early they will self destruct. The Knicks should win this game, but with Kobe Bryant in a big game on national T.V. expect this to be a tight one to the end.
Prediction: Knicks 103 Lakers 99
Where to Watch: TNT 8:00 PM