In the midst of their worst stretch of the 2012-2013 season, a trip to Madison Square Garden might be the last thing the Los Angeles Lakers need.
L.A. is set to play the red hot New York Knicks on Thursday night. The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. You can watch a free live stream online with TNT Overtime.
The Lakers and Knicks have had two very different starts to this NBA season.
Los Angeles was expected to be the best team in the West, but currently sits at 9-13 and in 12th place in the conference. They’ve lost five of their last six, with three of those losses coming to losing teams.
New York has exceeded all expectations, thus far. Coming off a road victory against the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks have the best record in the East at 16-5. They’ve won seven of their last eight, including a 20-point victory over the Miami Heat.
Carmelo Anthony has been the biggest reason for the Knicks success. He leads the team with 27.7 points per game and is shooting a career-high 45 percent from three-point range.
The only player in the league that scores more points than Anthony is Kobe Bryant. The 17-year veteran is putting up 29.2 points per game. Despite his team’s woes, Bryant is shooting the highest percentage of his career.
Like many great players in basketball history, Bryant feeds off playing in the world’s most famous arena. In 2009, he had a 61-point performance in New York, setting the record for most points scored at MSG.
Bryant might not be looking for a repeat performance on Thursday night. The Lakers have struggled when the shooting guard puts up a lot of points. Los Angeles is just 1-10 in games that Bryant scores at least 30 points this season.
Conversely, the Knicks have thrived when Anthony has a big shooting performance. New York is 5-2 when Anthony scores at least 30, and the forward could be ready for another big game against L.A.
In an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Bryant claimed that Anthony was the most difficult player in the league to cover, even over LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
“For me? Yeah,” Bryant said. “I’m [180 pounds] soaking wet. Going up against that bull, it’s fun, but it’s hard.”
Anthony will likely be guarded by Antawn Jamison for much of the night. He’ll get the start in place of Pau Gasol, who’ll miss another game with knee tendinitis. Jamison was replaced by Jordan Hill in the Lakers loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, but will get the nod against a Knicks team that likes to play with a smaller lineup.
A few former Knicks will be making their return to the Garden when the two teams meet.
Chris Duhon will get the start at point guard. He played for New York from 2008-2010. Duhon gets the start for Steve Nash, who hasn’t played since the second game of the season.
It’s Mike D’Antoni’s first game in New York since he left the team last year. He and owner James Dolan came to a mutual decision that it was best he step down as the Knicks head coach, with 24 games remaining last year. D’Antoni’s relationship with Anthony was reportedly a major factor in the decision.
It’s not often that the Knicks are favored against the Lakers, but Thursday is one of those rare occasions. They are giving L.A. six points in the contest.
New York has been dominant at home this season, They are 8-0 at MSG, and 7-1 against the point spread on their home court. The Lakers are just 2-7 on the road.
Prediction: The Lakers have shown no indication that they will beat the Knicks on the road. They’ve looked slow on defense, including Bryant. Dwight Howard hasn’t played like he is completely healthy, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler will challenge him in the middle. The one positive for the Lakers is that their biggest weakness is playing in transition, and the Knicks offense is based on making threes and playing in the half-court set. Still, the Knicks should remain undefeated at home.
Predicted Score: New York 107, Los Angeles 99