Brandon Ingram shoots against the New York Knicks on Jan. 4, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers' Skeleton Crew Stymied by Knicks

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

In the morning, the Lakers announced that LeBron James would miss another week with a strained groin. At night, they yielded another fourth-quarter lead without their superstar.

The Lakers entered the final frame up by six, but ended up falling to New York, 119-112, losing for the fourth time in five games without James.

While LeBron’s otherworldly talents are surely missed, coach Luke Walton felt the team most lacked his leadership.

“The challenge is when we hit dry spells and other teams get hot,” Walton said. “That’s when it starts getting quiet, and that’s when we need [leadership] the most.”

It was a sluggish start for a Lakers squad that was also missing second-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma, along with Rajon Rondo. The Knicks jumped out to a 17-point lead in the opening quarter, despite losing 14 of their previous 15 contests.

But the Lakers (21-18) recovered well, outscoring New York by 20 points in the second and third periods, largely behind some hot shooting from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19 points, four 3-pointers) and a dozen third-quarter points from JaVale McGee (18 points, nine rebounds).

Still, the Knicks (10-29) hung around and ended up trading blows down the stretch. McGee hit a layup to give the Lakers a one-point lead with four minutes left, but that was L.A.’s last gasp.

New York responded by ending the game on an 11-3 run, including two big buckets from Enes Kanter, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.

The Lakers shot just 29.6 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, but their defense was even more of a concern. Thanks to a plague of fouls, the Knicks hit 16 fourth-quarter free throws, while the Lakers made just one.

That foul shot disparity (34-15 on the night) messed with the Lakers’ pace and offensive identity. One of the league’s best transition teams was outscored on fast-breaks, 38-20.

“We’re the best when we get on the break,” Lonzo Ball said. “Getting on fast-breaks, you don’t do that when you let a team shoot 20 free throws in one quarter. Our half-court offense definitely needs improvement, but to combat that we need to get on fast-breaks.”

Lonzo showed off some electric shooting, hitting five 3-pointers on only seven tries, reaching 17 points. But he and the rest of the young core took their lumps as well.

Ball committed six turnovers. Brandon Ingram had 21 points and nine rebounds, but shot just 8-of-21 and had five giveaways of his own. Josh Hart was cold all night, going 2-of-11 and 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.

And while the Lakers’ defense clamped down on the Knicks — holding them to 37.9 percent shooting overall and 29.7 percent beyond the arc — they withered from disadvantages in free throws and turnovers (16-6).

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Notes
Michael Beasley (six points) played for the first time since missing 13 games due to the passing of his mother. … The Lakers (43.9 percent) outshot their opponent in a loss for the second straight game. … New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a game-high 22 points. … Lance Stephenson had eight points and a game-leading seven assists. … Caldwell-Pope replaced Kuzma in the starting lineup.

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