Knicks @ Lakers – Staples Center
When: Tuesday | 3:00 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks concluded a long six-game homestand with a win over the Wolves on Sunday night. New York improved to 20-7 and 12-2 at MSG while sitting a half game behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference prior to the Christmas Day games on Tuesday. Amar’e Stoudemire practiced last week in New York and even participated in scrimmage sessions with the D-League affiliate but he is not quite ready for game action. Rasheed Wallace is dealing with a foot injury and is out for the contest against the Lakers and Marcus Camby is listed as probable for the Christmas matchup in Los Angeles. The Knicks begin a three-game west coast road trip starting in LA on Tuesday, followed by games against the Suns and Kings this week.
Los Angeles Lakers: The 2012-13 season has certainly not gone according to plan for the Lakers. With a banner offseason, Los Angeles expected to run through the regular season and knock off the Thunder as the top contenders in the Western Conference. Dwight Howard continues to regain full health, Steve Nash has missed the majority of the season, and the team underwent a massive change when Mike Brown was fired after five games. Since the Knicks ran all over the Lakers on December 13, the squad has won four straight games and welcomed back the orchestrator of Mike D’Antoni’s famous fast pace offense. Nash returned to the lineup in the win over Golden State on Saturday night to help Los Angeles improve to 13-14 on the season. Pau Gasol also jumped back on the floor for Los Angeles last Tuesday and aside from Steve Blake, the team is back to full strength heading into the rematch against New York on Christmas Day.
Last Time Out
New York: Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to push the Knicks over the Wolves 94-91 on Sunday night.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and Nash dished out nine assists in his first game back to lead the Lakers to a 118-115 overtime victory over the Warriors.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks forced the Lakers to commit 13 turnovers and they only registered 13 assists as a team in the first contest in New York. In Los Angeles’ win over Golden State, the team posted 33 assists.
Match-up to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Steve Nash
It might be a crude metaphor for Christmas Day but the Knicks will need to cut the head off the snake in order to take down the Lakers for the second time this season. One glaring difference between the first matchup is the presence of Nash on the floor on Tuesday afternoon. Nash is the head of the snake with his ability to drive Los Angeles’ offense and D’Antoni has made it clear that he is essential to its success. Surprisingly, Nash logged 41 minutes of floor time on Saturday night in Golden State. He hit a clutch bucket in the late stages and as mentioned above, he recorded nine dimes. Raymond Felton will draw the defensive assignment but his best defense might be his offensive attack. The Knicks point guard can wear down the 38-year old by constantly working the pick-and-roll and forcing his way to the rim.
What to Look For
Anthony absolutely demolished the Lakers on December 13 before falling to the ground and eventually leaving the game with an ankle injury. In just 23 minutes, Anthony dropped 30 points, hit 10-of-15 shots from the floor, and 3-of-5 behind the arc. At the power forward spot, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers adjust in this rematch to defend the All-Star. This game will have a drastically different feel considering Nash and Gasol are back in Los Angeles’ lineup and the Lakers are 8-6 at home. Two key stats to watch is team rebounding (LA ranks No. 1) and if the Knicks can hold Los Angeles below the century mark as they average 102.6 points per game, good for fifth in the NBA.