In what could possibly be Kobe Bryant’s final game at the NBA’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, the Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off a victory Friday night, will play host to Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks in an afternoon clash.
The Lakers finally seized their first win of the regular season Friday night in Brooklyn led by a balanced attack. Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 18 points, and D’Angelo Russell followed with 16 points.
The 19-year-old rookie, who has had a rough start to the season, had the best offensive game of his young career, although he recorded zero assists. Russell shot 6 of 9 from the floor and was more active against the Nets.
In Friday’s contest, Byron Scott altered his rotations, giving Metta World Peace and Larry Nance Jr. the opportunity to showcase their abilities. Both of the aforementioned players did not disappoint. While Nance was providing hustle and energy, World Peace was supplying defensive tenacity and leadership, which ultimately ignited the young fellas.
Out of the regular rotation were Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Bass, so look for Coach Scott to continue to ride the energy of World Peace and Nance against the Knicks as well.
Speaking of the home team, after an inspiring start to the season, they have dropped three consecutive games, losing most recently to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden. Carmelo Anthony’s 17 points and six assists led the way for New York against Milwaukee, but poor backcourt play and 18 turnovers hurt their chances of securing their first home victory.
The backcourt starting unit of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic has been appalling, which may urge head coach Derek Fisher to make tweaks to the starting lineup that could soon consist of Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant.
The most interesting matchup will perhaps be between Anthony and Bryant. Since Scott has been playing Bryant at the small forward position, the 37-year-old will be tasked with a difficult matchup. Anthony may be shooting inefficiently to start the season, but he could grasp the opportunity to find offensive rhythm going up against a smaller Kobe Bryant.
To possibly counter Anthony’s size, Coach Scott may elect to give World Peace more minutes, as the 15-year veteran is better suited defending Melo. Either way, the interior defense of the Lakers must be prepared to help out on Anthony if possible since he will be a tough cover.
Rookie Kristaps Porzingis has been a pleasant surprise for New York. After the Latvian big man was booed on draft night, he has since turned critics into believers, averaging 12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.5 steals to start the season. In fact, he has outplayed $50 million man Robin Lopez on both ends of the floor.
Last season, the Knicks got the better of the Lakers, defeating them in both meetings. In the first meeting, Anthony poured in 31 points to lead his team to victory, while in the second meeting, Tim Hardaway Jr. aided the Knicks to a 101-94 triumph.
Tip-off for Sunday’s match is set at 3:30 pm Eastern Time.