NBA / tim hardaway jr
Knicks Embarrass Lakers at Home
The Lakers have a pretty easy schedule over the next few games, tonight's game included. With LeBron James still out and needing another week of rest before re-evaluation, this is the perfect time to have an overall fluffy collection of opponents. They had a chance to get a W over the sorry-ass New York Knicks but they couldn't make it happen in front of their home crowd. Knicks win 118-112 as the Knicks end an eight-game losing streak and the Lakers face a mountain of questions. The Lakers played without LeBron, Rondo, Kuzma, and with a hobbled Tyson Chandler/Brandon Ingram. The injuries are reeeeally piling up for the Lakeshow. They were missing their top scoring/playmaking options tonight, which made them play like a bottom-five lottery team. I'm nervous for this stretch of games that was supposed to be easy (Knicks, TWolves, Mavericks, Pistons, Jazz, Cavaliers Bulls), but actually may see them falling outside of the top eight seeds at the end of the day (currently #8 seed with two games in front of Sacramento). That's quite possibly a 5-1 stretch if you have LeBron and a full team - at LEAST 4-2. We'll see how they endure the hardship with only a shell of their full team. Check out the Rhythm of the Game versus the Knicks below. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Rhythm Of The Game First Quarter The first quarter began and I couldn't believe my eyes. It was Murphy's Law - everything that could go wrong did. The Knicks jumped out to a shocking 20-5 advantage off a 19-2 run that saw the Lakers looking like a lost, overmatched JV team. Right when you think "what else can go wrong?", the cameraman cut to a tired Brandon Ingram, face down and walking to the locker room! Not much long after, Lonzo bricked two straight free throws as we learned he was 1 for his last 11 at the line! How the hell was all this happening in the span of six minutes? This Laker tenure without LeBron was turning into a comedy of errors. I decided to laugh my way through the pain and uncertainty. It was still just the first quarter. LA got it to within six, but New York ended the quarter on a run to go up big by fourteen. 39-25. Could the Lakers make a comeback with their LeBron/Ingram/Rondo/Kuzma-less squad? I have no clue. I just didn't know where the offense was going to come for from the Lakers Second Quarter Thankfully, Ingram came back in to start the second. I still didn't think they were up this comeback, but Ingram's presence could give them a little scoring punch. Michael Beasley was also on the court for the first time since Dec. 7th after taking some time off because of his mother's passing. He made his presence known with a spinning face-up basket to keep the game within ten 50-40. All of the sudden, one of the Knicks players tripped during a wide-open layup. I got a jolt to my basketball intuition in that moment. I thought to myself though - the Knicks are trash, we are at home, and Beasley is back after an emotional time away. WE CAN COME BACK FROM THIS! And then what do you know, Lakers brought it back to within four, 54-50. The Knicks stretched the lead back out to nine, but a last minute charge saw the Lakers cut it down to four, 63-59. The New York Knicks were just bad enough to let this shell of a Lakers team hang around. KCP's sharpshooting(14 pts), and Lonzo's aggressiveness (11 pts, 3 rebs) were the driving forces in the first half. The Knicks were getting their scoring load from Tim Hardaway Jr. (16 pts) and Trey Burke (12 pts) Third Quarter The start of the third was a continuation of that ending to the first half. The Lakers challenged but didn't execute enough to retake the lead against a smorgasbord of random Knicks. JaVale McGee found himself in a nice little rhythm of four straight buckets assisted by Lance Stephenson/KCP. All of the sudden, Brandon Ingram took the lead off a lanky drive in transition! And a Svi three-pointer followed suit. 85-88 Lakers up and the crowd was alive! 86-92 heading into the final quarter of play. Fourth Quarter Lance Stephenson drove two straight times to the rim for four quick points, but careless turnovers doomed their chances to pull ahead as we sat all tied up 99--99. It once felt like a game where the Lakers could pull away early and coast in the fourth, but now we were facing a much different landscape as New York went back up thanks to Enes Kanter, 104-102. The teams traded leads as we slid into crunch time. The Knicks made them pay at the free throw line as they sneakily stayed within striking distance then climbed back on top, 112-109.The possiblity of a Knicks victory became every-present as NY went up by five with less than 1:30 remaining - but a Lonzo three brought it within two! New York was able to cop goaltend to jump back up by four with 55 seconds left in the ball game. Lakers ball. They had to get a score or else it'd be game over. And with the game on the line, Lonzo Ball took the ball firmly in his hands and -......turned it the fuck over. They jacked it up a few more times but the Knicks pretty much had it in the bag. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Takeaways Well, this one felt very winnable during that third quarter when they went ahead and the crowd was behind them. I guess my brain is used to them having LeBron to guide the ship home. Even if LeBron has had his free throw struggles at the end of games, I don't think it would've even gotten to that point if LBJ was in. Once we went down by five with a minute and a half remaining I felt like it was over - and I shouldn't have felt that way. A five-point lead with a minute and a half to go ain't shit. I just have so little faith in our offense right now I knew it was a wrap. The Knicks actually shot worse than the Lakers from the field (37% vs. 44%), but the Lakers had so many giveaways (6 vs. 17) that it equalized int he Knicks favor. Ball control always falls out of favor in losses like these. The disparity in free throw percentages wasn't a critical factor like it has been in the recent past (75% for Lakers, 81% for Knicks), but the Knicks attempted way more at the stripe (41 vs. 20) which served to keep them in the game when their shot couldn't fall. If only the Lakers could rely on the free throw line to get back into games (they're last in the league in free throw %). As mentioned in the intro above, this could've been an easy stretch in the schedule in service of making progress toward a #2 or #3 seed. Instead, this stretch may come to bite them in the ass in the unforgiving Western Conference. My guess is LeBron comes back in a week and a half and plays out of his mind to rally them into the #6-8 seed positioning. It'll be a nonstop barrage of competition, but it'll be a true display of what James still has left to give in an injury bounce-back situation.