Entering Tuesdays Christmas Day matchup between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers both teams are coming off gritty wins.
The Knicks are (3-2) in their last five games winning their last game against a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that fought well despite not having Kevin Love in the lineup due to an eye injury. However, the Lakers are hot (4-1) winning their last four games and coming off a thrilling OT win over the Golden State Warriors (118-115).
The Lakers are hoping to avenge their Dec 13th (116-107) loss at Madison Square Garden and exorcise their past Christmas Day blunders by tying the season series against the Knicks at Staples Center.
Christmas did come a little early for the Lakers and their fans this year in the form of a certain two-time MVP point-guard in Steve Nash returning to the starting line-up to face the Warriors. Nash had been out since the second game of the season where he suffered a left leg fracture.
Nash returned playing well dishing out nine assists and scoring efficiently but appeared a bit gun-shy throughout the game. Kobe Bryant on the other hand was anything but gun-shy. Bryant was as trigger-happy as ever hoisting up a season-high 41 shots recording 34 points in the win, but did make six of his last twelve shots in the 4th quarter and OT combined.
On the other side, the Knicks led by Carmelo Anthony’s 33 points, 19 of which came in the 4th quarter against the Timberwolves made their own comeback late Sunday night. Anthony took it upon himself to will the Knicks to victory down 82-86 with a little over two minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Anthony, who has been many sports writers early season MVP choice has New York buzzing with inevitable hopes of getting out of the first round this year and eventually facing the defending champions Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference championship.
The Lakers are trending upwards and should start playing with a serious sense of urgency considering they don’t have another dozen games to “get it right” because the fact of the matter is they are still 13-14, one game below .500 and that is definitely not elite. The return of Nash will be a gigantic offensive improvement for the rest of the season.
The Knicks are still playing well despite not having veteran power-forward Ama’re Stoudemire and second year stud guard Iman Shumpert. These two will play vital roles in the Knicks playoff picture.
Tuesdays, Christmas Day matchup should be a fun one because you have two superstars in Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony squaring off offensively, two of the greatest point-guards in NBA history past their primes in Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, the last four Defensive Player of the Year recipients in Dwight Howard (2008-11) and Tyson Chandler (2012), and of course two of the most prestigious NBA cities and franchises New York City versus L.A.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers in a high scoring close game, 108-102.