New York Knicks: Who Stepped Up Against The Los Angeles Lakers?

The New York Knicks continued their five-game road trip on Sunday, December 11 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Who stepped up during the 118-112 win?


December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks survived a Western Conference shootout against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, December 11. In the Knicks’ third road game in four outings, New York pushed the pace and pulled out a 118-112 victory.

Now 14-10 overall and 5-6 on the road, the Knicks are beginning to look like the postseason-caliber team that many critics didn’t believe they could be.

The Knicks found themselves at a crossroads both on the court and off of it. Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a publicized issue in the midst of the Knicks’ current five-game road trip, which inevitably became a distraction.

After Anthony and Jackson buried the hatchet on Saturday, December 10, the focus returned to winning games on Sunday, December 11.

With Jackson in attendance and Anthony embracing a new approach to the game, New York picked up yet another victory. The Knicks are now 11-4 over their past 15 games, including four consecutive wins away from home.

The question is: who stepped up during the New York Knicks’ clash with the Los Angeles Lakers on December 11?

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) controls the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng (9) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony shot poorly and made a number of costly turnovers during the New York Knicks’ clash with the Los Angeles Lakers. More important than that, however, were the positives that few expected to see.

With his shot faltering, Anthony stepped up as a rebounder, facilitator, and defender during the Knicks’ win in Los Angeles.

Anthony tallied just 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field, 0-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, and 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw line. That generally adds up to a poor overall performance, but Anthony found other ways to contribute.

Anthony stepped up with eight rebounds and team-high marks of seven assists and three steals in his 38 minutes.

With Phil Jackson in attendance, Anthony did what many believed he couldn’t: positively influenced the outcome without scoring. His free throw shooting came into play late in the game, but Anthony fought off poor tendencies and made the necessary plays to achieve victory.

It’s tough for an elite scorer like Anthony to check his shot at the door, but games like this are proof that he’s willing to do what it takes to win.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) controls the ball against New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Willy Hernangomez

The New York Knicks were dealt unfortunate news when Kyle O’Quinn was ruled out with a sprained ankle. O’Quinn was breaking out during the Knicks’ recent string of success, but was unable to suit up against the Los Angeles Lakers.

With O’Quinn absent and the Knicks in need of a backup center to contribute in relief of Joakim Noah, Willy Hernangomez answered the call.

Hernangomez finished with six points, 12 rebounds, four offensive boards, one assist, two blocks, and a steal in 20 minutes of action against the Lakers. He shot just 3-of-8 from the field, but stepped up with similar contributions to what O’Quinn provided in recent games.

Wherever a loose ball surfaced, Hernangomez was there to make a play for it and help the Knicks control the pace.

Hernangomez has played quite well during his rookie season. He gained invaluable professional experience in Spain’s vaunted Liga ACB, but playing in the Association—let alone for the Knicks—is another animal entirely.

Hernangomez needs to avoid silly fouls and move his feet better when defending the pick and roll, but he’s proving to be an NBA-caliber player.

Dec 7, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Justin Holiday (8) warms up before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Holiday

It’s not hard to see why Justin Holiday has carved out a consistent role in Jeff Hornacek’s rotation. The stars may garner the lion’s share of the praise, but Holiday seems to make a critical play in the fourth quarter of every New York Knicks win.

The 118-112 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was no exception, as Holiday started out hot and then saved New York from a fourth quarter collapse.

The Knicks pulled ahead for an 86-80 lead in the fourth quarter, but proceeded to allow Los Angeles to score seven consecutive points. With New York now trailing 86-87 and the Lakers gaining momentum, Holiday saved his team.

Holiday turned a broken possession into a trip to the free throw line, where he proceeded to give the Knicks an 88-87 lead—and New York never trailed again.

Overall, Holiday contributed nine points, three rebounds, and a steal in 16 minutes of action. He shot 3-of-6 from the field, made a 3-point field goal, went 2-of-3 at the free throw line, and maintained a high level of defensive intensity.

For all that he did on defense, one of the primary keys to the Knicks winning was Holiday bailing out the offense and restoring order to the game.

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

Brandon Jennings

The New York Knicks have been able to rely upon sixth man Brandon Jennings for consistent contributions off the bench. After playing well in his two starts in relief of Derrick Rose, however, it was fair to question if he’d be unhappy with a return to the bench.

If there was anyone who believed Jennings would suffer from a morale perspective, his showing against the Los Angeles Lakers should eliminate the theory.

The Compton, California native torched the Lakers for 19 points, four assists, and three rebounds in just 23 minutes. He shot 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

It was a productive and efficient performance from Jennings, who made the seamless transition from the starting lineup back into the role of sixth man.

Other players had gaudier statistics, but Jennings dominated the fourth quarter. He scored 15 points in the final 10:12, 13 points in the final 7:33, seven points in the final 3:13, and five points in the final 1:45 of the fourth quarter.

Simply put: Jennings was the Knicks’ closer in a road game that could go a long way towards determining the team’s confidence in future outings away from home.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) reacts after scoring a three point basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Courtney Lee

Courtney Lee is a subtle offensive player who picks his spots and doesn’t often dominate from a statistical perspective. His offense is more timely than traditionally productive, but that’s exactly what the New York Knicks need from him.

Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lee reminded the masses that, when New York needs something more, he’s capable of rising to the occasion.

Lee finished with 16 points, one assist, and a steal in 35 invaluable minutes of action. It was the second time in three games that he’d scored at least 15 points, with the previous outing being the blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This time around, Lee made his shots count by converting at rates of 4-of-6 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and 5-of-5 from the free throw line.

Lee does an outstanding job of creating offense towards the ends of the shot clock and finding openings along the perimeter. He did an excellent job of that in the third quarter, when he sank three 3-point field goals and helped New York build a lead.

Lee added five points in the fourth quarter, including the game-sealing free throws and a massive and-one. Throw in his game-high +/- of +14 and it was a superb performance by Lee.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) moves the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

At least one time per game, New York Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis has a, “Wow,” moment. Against the Los Angeles Lakers, it felt as though Porzingis had one every time he touched the ball—or every time an opponent tried to drive the lane.

In what may have been the best all-around performance of his NBA career, Porzingis bounced back from a recent cold stretch with an outstanding game.

Porzingis did it all against the Lakers—a statement with no hyperbole. He posted 26 points, 12 rebounds, three offensive boards, two assists, seven blocks, and one steal on shooting marks of 8-of-15 from the field, 3-of-4 from distance, and 7-of-9 at the charity stripe.

Beyond the numbers, Porzingis scored in every way imaginable, dominated the paint on defense, took his turn as a facilitator, and overwhelmed L.A. on the boards.

Porzingis has the type of versatility that NBA executives have only been able to dream of. At 7’3″, he’s capable of posting these type of numbers on a nightly basis—give or take a few blocks and few other changes.

For what it’s worth, Porzingis is the first Knicks player to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and seven blocks since Patrick Ewing in 1997.

December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) controls the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose

New York Knicks starting point guard Derrick Rose missed the previous two games and nine quarters with a back injury. He showed how much he missed donning the orange and blue by dominating the first half and pacing New York’s offense.

Rose showed some signs of game rust, but they were few and far between during this sensational return to the starting lineup.

Rose finished with 25 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one block in his 34 minutes of court time. He shot 12-of-16 from the field and 1-of-2 from the free throw line while recording a +/- of +13 in what was a tough matchup against D’Angelo Russell.

Rose made his first eight field goal attempts and sank his final shot with 19.4 seconds remaining to ice the victory.

Bigger than the statistics is the fact that Rose looked to be at 100 percent after missing nine straight quarters with a back injury. He was comfortable driving the lane, finishing in traffic, and rising up off of a dribble into midrange jump shots.

Rose’s health will be a topic of conversation for the rest of his NBA career, but he’s still as fast and dynamic as any point guard in the Association.

Behind the efforts of these primetime performers, the New York Knicks improved to 14-10 through 24 games.

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