New York Knicks: What We Learned From Los Angeles Lakers Game

The New York Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 118-112 on Sunday, December 11. What did we learn about the Knicks during this clash of iconic organizations?


December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), guard Derrick Rose (25), forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and guard Courtney Lee (5) react during the 118-112 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have one of the most underrated rivalries in NBA history. It’s become far less prominent in the decades since, but the Knicks and Lakers met in the NBA Finals on five different occasions between 1952 and 1973.

New York and Los Angeles aren’t exactly titans of the NBA in 2016-17, but Phil Jackson is attempting to build his new team to the same heights as his former squad reached.

On Sunday, December 11, New York and Los Angeles resumed the rivalry with a clash at Staples Center. The future of the NBA was well represented with both teams turning to their young players and rising stars.

Both also tasked their veterans with stepping up and providing crucial contributions with both teams in need of a win.

The Knicks won this battle of head coaches in their first season with their respective teams. Jeff Hornacek outdueled Luke Walton as the Knicks improved to 14-10 overall and 5-6 on the road with the 118-112 shootout victory.

The question is: what did we learn from the New York Knicks’ clash with the Los Angeles Lakers on December 11?

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), guard Derrick Rose (25), forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and guard Courtney Lee (5) react during the 118-112 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

5. Derrick Rose’s Back Is Fine

Derrick Rose exited the New York Knicks’ 114-103 victory over the Miami Heat during the third quarter with back spasms. He then missed New York’s 126-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and its 103-100 win against the Sacramento Kings.

Having missed the past nine quarters due to injury, Rose came out with a fire against the Los Angeles Lakers and proved his back is holding up just fine.

Rose made his first eight shots and got to the rim at virtual will against the Lakers. He scored 17 points in the first half alone as he essentially went toe-to-toe with Los Angeles’ offense and paced New York to an explosive first two quarters.

Rose finished with 25 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one block on 12-of-16 shooting from the field in a necessary display of comfort and mobility.

Back injuries are often the product of something else being wrong with an individual’s body. That’s a concerning reality when one considers the extensive list of lower-body injuries Rose has endured during his NBA career.

Fortunately, Rose played with a purpose and moved as explosively as he has all season during the Knicks’ 118-112 win over the Lakers.

Nov 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during a game at Target Center. The Knicks defeated the Timberwolves 106-104. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

4. There’s A Surplus At Center

The New York Knicks will continue to start Joakim Noah at center for his leadership, rebounding, facilitating, and defensive prowess. He’s developing chemistry with his fellow starters and has looked the part of a resurgent force in recent games.

Behind Noah, the Knicks have an issue that many teams would love to have in that there are multiple players on the roster who are thriving at center.

Kyle O’Quinn has been breaking out over the past few weeks with averages of 7.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 20.3 minutes over the previous 10 games. Unfortuantely, O’Quinn was sidelined by an ankle injury when New York traveled to Los Angeles.

Rookie center Willy Hernangomez stepped up in his absence, recording six points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in 20 minutes.

Noah has been rather enigmatic in 2016-17, but he’s beginning to find his form. Though the Knicks may not discover a star as soon as this season, there are three centers who can all make significant contributions.

If head coach Jeff Hornacek plays his rotations right, that trio of centers—and lest we forget, O’Quinn can play the 4—could help shape New York’s season.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

3. Guard Play Is Becoming A Strength

For the first time since—this may take a while, so let’s just let that point stand for what it is—the New York Knicks have quality guard play. Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee complement one another quite well, and Brandon Jennings and Justin Holiday are exciting players of the bench.

The game against the Los Angeles Lakers tested and proved how well the Knicks’ guards can perform under pressure.

Madison Square Garden played home to two of the greatest guards in NBA history during the 1970s: Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York later acquired the likes of Mark Jackson and Micheal Ray Richardson, but their tenures were brief for varying reasons.

Since John Starks departed in 1998—and even then, the Knicks had a revolving door of point guards alongside him—quality guard play has been unsustainable in New York City.

With Rose and Lee starting, and Jennings and Holiday coming in off the bench, that’s finally been fixed—for now. Lee and Holiday provide invaluable energy and defense, and Rose and Jennings are two of the most dynamic playmakers in the NBA.

After winning 32 games with the worst backcourt in the Association in 2015-16, the Knicks appear poised for a big season in 2016-17.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts during the 118-112 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

2. Carmelo Anthony Doesn’t Always Need To Score

The New York Knicks shouldn’t make a habit out of trying to win games where Carmelo Anthony struggles to score. No matter how hard he’s working to polish other areas of his game, Anthony’s primary strength is still his scoring proficiency.

Having said that, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the fact that the Knicks aren’t relying entirely upon his scoring to win games in 2016-17.

Anthony scored just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers. He added eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, however, and those numbers display the well-rounded nature of his game.

Anthony crashed the boards, actively looked for opportunities to facilitate, and played at a high level on the defensive end of the floor.

The Knicks are now 2-2 when Anthony scores less than 15 points and 3-2 when he shoots worse than 40 percent. New York was 8-21 when he shot worse than 40 percent in 2015-16, which is unto itself a sign of how far this team has come.

The Knicks need Anthony to score with both volume and efficiency on a consistent basis, but it’s encouraging to know he’s found ways to contribute in ways other than scoring.

1. Kristaps Porzingis Has No Ceiling

Generally speaking, the notion that a player has no ceiling is hyperbole utilized to express a valid point that their upside is all-time greatness. In the case of New York Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis, however, his ceiling is unprecedented.

Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Porzingis proved as much by recording 26 points, 12 rebounds, three offensive boards, two assists, seven blocks, one steal, and three 3-point field goals made.

Porzingis did it all and maintained his efficiency with shooting marks of 8-of-15 from the field, 3-of-4 from distance, and 7-of-9 at the free throw line. The fact that he’s 7’3″, mobile, and skilled creates the potential for him to potentially average those statistics—minus a few blocks, of course.

As for the ceiling talk, try this. During his dominant showing against the Lakers, Porzingis became the first documented player to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks, and three 3-point field goals.

Basketball-Reference.com confirmed our findings.

Basketball-Reference.com’s Game Finder records date back to 1983-84. The 3-point shot wasn’t introduced until 1979-80, meaning Porzingis may have been the first to ever do it.

This falls in line with what Porzingis achieved in 2015-16. For those unfamiliar, he became the first rookie in NBA history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 75 3-point field goals made.

Not only is Porzingis a physical anomaly at a coordinated and athletic 7’3″, but he’s combining skills in an unprecedented manner.

“The sky is the limit” may be an appropriate cliche, but I’m not sure there is a limit to what Kristaps Porzingis can do.

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