If someone said at the beginning of the season that the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers and obviously-not-the-defending-champions New York Knicks would have the same record in the last week of the regular season, then that someone would’ve been joking.
Now, we’re in the last week of the regular season, and the Lakers and Knicks have identical 38-30 win-loss records. No jokes here.
These two teams may have accumulated an equal number of wins and losses, but they’re on different waves this season. The Lakers have slipped down the rankings and are performing way below expectations.
With injuries to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Dennis Schroder, the Lakers have found themselves trying to claw their way out of the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference, which is a sinkhole into the play-in tournament.
There are only four teams left to tick off on the Lakers’ schedule: the Knicks, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and New Orleans Pelicans. If they sweep this final stretch, while the Portland Trail Blazers split their last four games, the Lakers will take No. 6 and avoid the play-in. A scenario other than that and the Lakers are in trouble of defending the title.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that LeBron is looking at making his return against New York. If he comes back at full strength and goes on one of those runs that make us question his very being, then the Lakers will be okay. The other good news is Anthony Davis is back, and he seems angry.
The other bad news, however, is that the Knicks are on a mission of their own.
Unlike the Lakers, the Knicks’ 38-30 record is good enough for 4th spot in the Eastern Conference. For them to clinch their first playoff berth since 2013, the Knicks will only have to win two of their last four games against the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Boston Celtics. It’s looking good for New York.
They’ve just come out of a huge win against the Los Angeles Clippers, despite Julius Randle not being his usual super self in that game. Randle scored only 14 points, which in his All-Star standards, means he wasn’t spectacular. Good thing Derrick Rose showed up looking like his old MVP self, carrying the scoring load with 25 points off the bench to go along with eight assists.
The Lakers are the last team on the Knicks’ dreaded six-game West Coast trip, in which they have already won three and lost two.
This season will go down as one of the weirdest, most turbulent seasons in league history, and it will be highlighted by these two squads. The Lakers, a champion last year, are uncharacteristically fighting for survival pre-playoff time. The Knicks, a team that has missed the playoffs for the last seven years, are out-of-character great.
Catch this interesting matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks at 10:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Cignal TV or NBA.smart, free for Smart Signature & Smart Prepaid subscribers with Giga Video subscription.