New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers Prediction: LeBron Out at MSG
New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers Prediction
LeBron James has had his fair share of big moments at Madison Square Garden over the years, but unless the Knicks and Lakers meet in this year’s Finals (pro tip: don’t hold your breath), his next one will have to wait until next year.
Thanks to the brouhaha at the Palace the other night, the King was suspended for one game and will miss this one. On the Knicks side, starting center Mitchell Robinson is in concussion protocol and will miss the game as well, while steady-as-she-goes Taj Gibson is doubtful. Perhaps worst of all for New York, Derrick Rose, who has arguably been the Knicks’ best player this season, is questionable with a sore right ankle.
Putting Rose aside for a moment, the other absences mean we’re likely to see an interesting chess match between Frank Vogel and Tom Thibodeau. In their most recent game against Chicago, with Nerlens Noel and rookie Jericho Sims as the only healthy centers, Thibs used Julius Randle at center for 18 minutes, which was easily a season high.
The move helped unlock Randle for what was his best offensive performance of the season, but it predictably left the Knicks wanting for rim protection at the other end. Chicago drove the lane relentlessly to close out that game and was a big part of why they outscored the Knicks in the fourth en route to a come from behind win.
Chicago is seventh the NBA in frequency of shots taken at the rim; the Lakers are second. They live at the rim, which normally plays into New York’s hands, but only when they’re at full strength. The Lakers also have the added benefit of having the most versatile big man in the NBA in Anthony Davis, who allows them to play big and small at the same time.
And then there is the Melo factor. He is among the league leaders in converting threes at a high volume, and assuming he starts, will be guarded by Randle. Julius is a former Laker and has performed well against his former team in the past, but he’s also been caught hanging too low in the paint on defense far too often this season. Giving Anthony time to load up and fire away has been deadly for Laker opponents this season.
With the uncertainty surrounding Rose’s ankle and New York’s penchant for caution with its players when they aren’t fully healthy, this calls for taking the underdog, especially with the Knicks having performed so poorly at home this season. Perhaps the crowd at MSG will leave happy after all, but this line is a few points too high for comfort. Go with LA.
New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers Pick
- Lakers +5.5 (-109)
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers Prediction
Turns out having a healthy MVP in the lineup is kind of important after all.
The Nuggets have been without Nikola Jokic for the last two games now, and the results have been ugly. Denver lost by six in Chicago before getting blown out in Phoenix on Sunday night. Now, they head into the building of their closest rival, and the circumstances are not ideal.
Portland faced the Jokic-led Nuggets in Denver nine days ago and left bruised and battered, losing by 29 points and falling two games below .500. Since then, they have played their best basketball of the season, beating the Raptors, Bulls and Sixers in the first three games of their four-game home-stand.
The defense is still shaky – they’ve given up between 107 and 113 in each of the three games, and still own the 25th ranked defense – but they seem to have righted the ship. Most importantly, Dame has gotten rolling. Over the last seven games, he’s averaging 26.4 points, 7.3 assists, and is hitting above 38 percent on nearly 10 deep attempts per game.
This line is interesting, in that it’s far too low if Jokic doesn’t play but also gives the Blazers a chance if he does. At press time, the Nuggets haven’t made an announcement but there’s been no indication he’s close to returning. Take advantage of the uncertainty while you still can and take the home team with confidence.
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers Pick
- Trail Blazers -6 (-110)