The Lakers Face Off Against Rising Star Kristaps Porzingis & the New York Knicks


By: John Lu (@JohnLu008)


After back-to-back close losses in Washington D.C. and Boston, the Lakers will travel to Madison Square Garden to conclude their season series with the Knicks for the middle game of their five game Grammy road trip. The two teams come into the contest after having underwhelming performances in January — the Lakers winning just 5 of their 15 games and the Knicks winning 5 out of 17 games. 

Back in December, the Knicks narrowly defeated the Lakers in a 118 – 112 win to take the first meeting of the season series. Although Knicks star Carmelo Anthony struggled with just 13 points on 4 – 16 shooting, his fellow starters Derrick Rose and Porzingis contributed a combined 51 points on 31 shots to seal the victory.

Our Editor-in-Chief Pete Zayas made a video analyzing the liability of the Lakers switching too much on defense against the Knicks. Be sure it check it out for a refresher.


Porzingis’ Perimeter Game

Why it Worked: Porzingis’ offensive game is unique due to his quick guard-like agility at 7’ 3” and his ability to shoot from the perimeter. His enormous standing height allows him to rarely have to worry about his outside shot being blocked. In the first play, Rose sets a flare screen to get Porzingis open for the catch. Afterwards, he uses his quickness to attack Randle’s closeout off the dribble and then simply rises over Russell’s switch defense to drain the midrange jump shot.

In the second play, Clarkson switches with Nance Jr. and closes out on Porzingis at the three-point line. However, because of Porzingis’ size, Clarkson’s contest doesn’t bother him in the slightest and he knocks down go-ahead three-pointer.

How to Adjust: Porzingis is shooting a very respectable 37.9% from three-point range this season so defenders need to close out hard to him to run him off the three-point line. In the first play, Russell reacts appropriately by pointing out the flare screen to Randle, but then he stays too far back in the paint on the switch and is out of position to challenge the midrange jump shot. The secondary defender on the Lakers needs to hedge higher in pick and roll situations to contain Porzingis off the dribble.

As Pete pointed out in his video, Porzingis shot very poorly in the first meeting when he was actually guarded by Lakers defenders at his own position in isolation situations. He was unable to effectively shoot over them as he did with the Lakers guards. Therefore, it is imperative for the Lakers defense to minimize switching between guards and bigs.


Derrick Rose in Transition

Why it Worked: In the first matchup in December, Derrick Rose’s play was reminiscent of his 2010-2011 MVP season as he shredded the Lakers transition defense on his way to 25 points on 12 out of 16 shooting from the field.

In the first play, Rose starts the fast break with three Lakers in front of him. Randle should have swung his hips earlier and sprinted to make contact with Rose to slow down the fast break. However, no one stops the ball and Rose is able to run in a direct line from one free-throw line to the other, ultimately getting into the lane for the floater. It’s a similar story with Russell in the second play; he is initially in good position to step in front of Rose but instead chooses to go for the interception and gets burned by Porzingis’ overhead pass. The result is unsurprising – another made floater by Rose.

How to Adjust: The team must make a conscious effort to run back on defense to contain the Knicks’ early transition offense. Specifically, the Lakers guards and wings need to do a better job of putting a body on Rose to make him change directions and slow down. Once Rose gets a full head of steam, it is difficult to contest his floaters in transition, especially with his high release point.

 Carmelo Anthony’s Midrange Game

Why it Worked: In this play, Anthony has the smaller Russell switched onto him and the Knicks team goes into an isolation set. The four other Knicks on the floor position themselves behind either the three-point line or the basket to discourage the Lakers defense from helping on the play. Russell knows that he’s not tall enough to affect Anthony’s shot and makes a mistake swiping at the ball with his left hand, allowing Anthony to step to his left side, rise up, and knock down a 14-foot jump shot.

How to Adjust: Carmelo Anthony is second in the league in total field goal attempts from between 10 feet to the three-point line. Despite shooting a respectable 45.5%, his points per possession from this distance is still below the overall league average points per possession. It would benefit the Lakers defense to switch less and continue to allow Anthony shoot from this range with Deng, Ingram, or Young guarding him instead of smaller (e.g. Russell) or slower (e.g. Mozgov) defenders. A repeat of Anthony’s inefficient offensive performance from the first meeting would definitely help the Lakers’ cause.


Notes: The Knicks and Lakers are two of the worst teams in terms of defensive efficiency – the Knicks at 24th with 107.8 points per 100 possessions and Lakers at 30th with 110.3 points per 100 possessions. The Knicks have the 3rd highest offensive rebounding rate at 27.7% while the Lakers have the 7th worst defensive rebounding rate at 75.5%. The Lakers big men need to consistently box out to deny the Knicks extra possessions on the offensive end. In the three games since returning from an MCL sprain, D’Angelo Russell has averaged 19.7 points, 9.0 assists, and 6.7 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game.