We begin our 2011-12 NBA on TNT Thursday game of the night previews with a television executive’s dream as the two biggest markets in the league face off when the New York Knicks visit the L.A. Lakers for the only time this season (the teams will play Feb. 10 at MSG).
Frankly, the marquee teams are penalized in the lockout-shortened 66-game schedule as the NBA wants to make sure the league’s top clubs face each other a maximum amount of times possible for TV. That could hugely benefit a lower-tier playoff club like an Indiana or Portland. But that’s another story.
This is the first of a three-games-in-four nights West Coast trip for the Knicks. They faced Golden State on Wednesday night in their first game since beating a Paul Pierce-less Boston, 106-104, in the NBA’s season opener on Christmas (good luck getting many two-day breaks going forward). Carmelo Anthony, my pick for this season’s scoring champion, had 37 points and eight rebounds to lead the Knicks over Boston. Key offseason addition Tyson Chandler had six blocks as the new defensive anchor in the middle for New York, which was 0-8 against the C’s last year.
The Lakers probably had the most grueling start to the season than anyone. L.A. opened with a back-to-back-to-back (three games in essentially 56 hours).
Los Angeles blew a win in the home Christmas opener against Chicago, falling 88-87 as Kobe Bryant had his shot blocked while driving to the hoop as time expired. L.A. led that game by 11 with 3:44 left; Kobe also had a key turnover with about 17 seconds left.
Then the Lakers hopped on a plane for the short flight to Sacramento, where they looked gassed in a 100-91 loss. It was the first time L.A. had opened with back-to-back losses since 2002-03.
But the panic subsided on Tuesday night as the Lakers returned home and pummeled a solid Utah team, 96-71. Los Angeles ran away with a dominant third quarter, making a 27-8 surge out of halftime in the club's first win for coach Mike Brown (the Lakers were 0-2 in preseason too).
Knicks at Lakers Betting Story Lines
This will be the final game for the Lakers without suspended starting center Andrew Bynum. They miss Bynum as L.A. is only in the middle-of-the-pack in the NBA in rebounding (usually among the leaders) and is being outboarded on the offensive glass. That night off was sorely needed as Kobe has that torn ligament in his shooting wrist (that won’t get any better) and both Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts were nursing injuries, although they both played vs. the Jazz.
Gasol had 22 points in the win over Utah. He hadn’t cracked the 20-point barrier since last April 10 against Oklahoma City, which was 15 games ago (five regular season, 10 playoffs) for the Lakers. It had been 22 games since Gasol had scored 20 in a win. He has to play out of place when Bynum isn’t in the lineup.
Metta World Peace has been solid the past two games, scoring 33 points on 13-for-23 shooting after going for just four points on 2-for-6 shooting in the season opener. He will get the primary defensive assignment on Carmelo. Brown’s mantra is defense, and the Lakers held the Jazz to just 29-for-90 shooting (32.2 percent). In their past six quarters at home (second half vs. Bulls), the Lakers have held teams to just 41-for-148 from the field. That’s obviously encouraging.
Even though they won’t have to deal with Bynum, the Knicks better hit the boards tonight. Chandler had just three rebounds in the opener and the Knicks were outrebounded by 10 and allowed 48 points in the paint. Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire are great scorers, but neither is much of a rebounder or post defender, so that all falls on Chandler.
The Lakers swept the two games against New York last year. L.A. won, 109-87, at home on Jan. 9 thanks to outrebounding the Knicks (there’s that problem again), 61-42, and holding them to 36 percent shooting. But the Knicks didn’t have Carmelo yet. World Peace (back then Ron Artest) clotheslined Stoudemire and was called for a flagrant foul in that game, so keep an eye on if there remains any bad blood.
On Feb. 11 in New York, the Lakers won, 113-96, but again the Knicks hadn’t gotten Anthony yet.
Knicks at Lakers Betting Odds and Key Trends
L.A. opened as a three-point favorite with the total at 198 on NBA odds.
The Lakers are 2-1 ATS and 2-0 at home. The Knicks (all NY trends entering Wednesday) didn’t cover that opener vs. Boston. ‘Over/under’ records: NYK 1-0, LA 0-3.
The Lakers are 4-11 ATS in past 15 Thursday games. The Knicks are 4-1 ATS in past five vs. Western Conference. The ‘over’ has hit in all five. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in NY’s past five Thursday games.
The Knicks are 1-4 ATS in past five vs. Lakers.
NBA Picks: Knicks at Lakers Betting Predictions
The good news for the Knicks is that this will be their only trip farther than Texas in the entirety of this condensed season. And, of course, they get a Lakers team playing its fourth game in five nights.
But New York is already shorthanded, having lost two rotation players — Iman Shumpert and Jared Jeffries — to injury. And that Knicks backcourt, which starts Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, is one of the NBA’s worst.
Who on this team can slow Kobe? Bryant is averaging 27.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists despite the wrist injury. He averaged 30 against the Knicks last year.
New York hasn't beaten Los Angeles since February 2007, an eight-game skid. And the Knicks won’t tonight, either, so take L.A. and give the points (plus, if you bet now you might get the benefit of a Knicks injury on Wednesday night).
Two tired teams should mean very little defense, so take the ‘over’.
Doc’s Sports has opened up their NBA picks season with three straight winning nights. They have a 6-Unit NBA Game of the Month going on Wednesday (Clippers/Spurs, 8:30 p.m. EST tip) and will have more winning NBA handicapping picks on Thursday and Friday and through the weekend. Also, check their Insider’s Page daily for free NBA picks.