It’s been a long, long time since the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks had a more important meeting than their Tuesday night matchup. The two teams are set to face off at Staples Center in a contest with major playoff implications.

The Lakers and Knicks have the same 38-30 record with four games left in the regular season. L.A. is the No. 7 seed in the West, looking to avoid the NBA’s new play-on tournament. New York is the No. 4 seed in the weaker East with a chance to clinch a postseason berth.

A win for the Knicks and loss for the Boston Celtics, who host the Miami Heat earlier in the night, would secure a playoff spot for New York. The Knicks are already guaranteed to make the play-in tournament, at worst.

The betting odds suggest that New York won’t lock up a playoff berth just yet. The Lakers are 5.5-point favorites at home, according to point spreads compiled by OddsShark.

LeBron James’ playing status could ultimately determine the result. James has missed four straight games after returning too early from a high ankle sprain. It’s been reported that the reigning NBA Finals MVP might return Tuesday, even though the latest injury report notes that James is out for the upcoming contest.

The Lakers are just 10-15 without James in the lineup. Anthony Davis missed a portion of those games with lower leg injuries. Davis finally appears to be in midseason form, scoring 42 points on Sunday night while leading Los Angeles to an impressive victory over the Phoenix Suns.

In order to avoid the play-in tournament, the Lakers have little margin for error. Lo Angeles trails the No. 6 seed Portland Trail Blazers by 1.5 games in the standings. Portland owns the tiebreaker over the Lakers.

Davis and James missed the Lakers’ first matchup with the Knicks. New York beat the defending champs 111-96 at Madison Square Garden. All-NBA candidate Julius Randle led the Knicks with 34 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The Knicks are coming off an impressive 106-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. New York was blown out by the Suns and Denver Nuggets in their previous two games.

The Lakers and Knicks allow the fewest points per game of anyone in the entire NBA.

Julius Randle
Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks looks to pass the ball Getty Images | Julio Aguilar