Well, here I go previewing another matchup involving two more of the NBA’s marquee teams in the Lakers and Knicks. But here’s my reasoning this week even though I am about sick of talking about both those two: the TNT nightcap this week is San Antonio at Portland. It’s the second of a back-to-back for the Spurs and their third game already this week, all on the road. So it sure sounds like one of those times Gregg Popovich might rest one, two or all of his Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker (the NBA would crucify him after last time). And I’m just not going to deal with the Spurs in those situations because, obviously, any early line would be drastically altered.
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So Lakers-Knicks it is, L.A’s only visit to Madison Square Garden this season. And, of course, it’s Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni’s return to New York. The teams play again at Staples Center right after Heat-Thunder on Christmas Day. It’s always fun to see Kobe Bryant play at Madison Square Garden, touted as the world’s most famous arena. Like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Kobe is even more aggressive when he plays at MSG. MJ held the record for most points by an opposing player in the building with his infamous 55-point night in his return in 1995. But Bryant one-upped MJ, as he loves to do, by scoring 61 back in February 2009. That broke former Knick legend Bernard King’s all-time arena record of 60 set on Christmas Day 1984.
Lakers at Knicks Betting Story Lines
Where to begin with the Lakers? They are a mess. Steve Nash hasn’t played in weeks and likely won’t for a few more. Pau Gasol remains out with knee issues – there’s an off chance he could return Thursday, but it doesn’t seem probable. On Tuesday night against a pretty bad Cleveland team, the Lakers were torched by Kyrie Irving – who just returned from missing nearly a month – in falling 100-94. It was L.A’s third straight loss (2-7 on road), dropped it to 9-13 overall (worst start in 10 years) and 4-8 under D’Antoni (think Phil Jackson is smiling somewhere? How about Mike Brown?).
Kobe had 42 against the Cavs, but the Lakers dropped to 0-3 this season when he hits four dimes and 1-10 when he gets to 30. Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 boards but remains defensively passive for some reason. Kobe and Howard shot 19-for-37 from the field and 20-for-32 from the free-throw line. The rest of the team: 12-of-38 and 5-for-8.
The problems are numerous. L.A. is atrocious at the point without Nash and backup Steve Blake, who’s out several more weeks. The Lakers had 19 turnovers on Tuesday and are second-to-last in that category on the season. Howard seems to find himself out of place all the time, as the Cavs were continually getting layups late in the game. Some speculate he is playing “whiny” because he never gets the ball. The Lakers were No. 8 in defensive efficiency under Brown and are No. 17 under D’Antoni. The offensive efficiency also is worse, which is astounding considering that’s why D’Antoni was hired. But it’s still hard to judge the coach before he gets his quarterback in Nash.
Meanwhile, things couldn’t be better for D’Antoni’s most recent team. The Knicks are atop the East and won a thrilling 100-97 game at Brooklyn on Tuesday. Carmelo Anthony dominated again with 45 points, tying the most by any player this season. He is your MVP right now. New York has turned the ball over less than any team – bringing in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd and letting Jeremy Lin go is looking brilliant right now. The question is what happens when Amare Stoudemire debuts? New York might be without key reserve J.R. Smith on Thursday. He had 16 points and four boards vs. the Nets but collided late with Gerald Wallace and is questionable with a back issue.
Lakers at Knicks Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, the Knicks are 5.5-point favorites with the total at 209.5. Lakers are 9-13 ATS (3-6 on road) and 12-10 “over/under”. Knicks are 13-8 ATS (7-1 at home) and 11-8-2 O/U.
The Lakers are 0-5 ATS in their past five Thursday games. L.A. is 1-6 ATS in past seven playing on one day of rest. The Knicks are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a win and also after scoring at least 100 in their previous game. The under is 4-1 in Lakers’ past five road games. The over is 4-0 in the Knicks’ past four at home. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings. L.A. has covered in four of the past five.
NBA Picks: Lakers at Knicks Betting Predictions
If the Lakers lose this game and then at Washington on Friday night … wow, Kobe is going to go off in a big way. He already showed signs of the strain in post-game interviews Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Knicks are now 33-11 since D’Antoni was canned and Mike Woodson took his place. I do expect Kobe to have another monster game, but the Knicks are the NBA’s last unbeaten home team and mostly have been blowing people out there. Plus, they will want to stick it to D’Antoni. Give the points and take the under. I will say this, however: If Gasol plays, I would lean toward taking the points.
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