LeBron James, Madison Square Garden
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Knicks are sure to have their hands full when LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers come to Madison Square Garden.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks are staring down a tall task on Wednesday. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are coming to New York with a rare chip on their shoulder. After suffering an embarrassing 139-107 loss on the floor of TD Garden in Boston, the Lakers are going to want to right the ship in Madison Square Garden.

The Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference (34-9) with James and Anthony Davis fully healthy—the latter missed five games after suffering an injury against the Knicks in STAPLES Center. And to make matters worse for the orange and blue, the Boston Celtics just whipped the Lakers by 32. Yeah, it’s safe to expect a pissed off James on Wednesday night.

So what? Every NBA team comes out motivated after a blowout loss. Why is Wednesday any different?

Well, James might not outright admit it, but he’s definitely interested in erasing the memory of his last game in MSG. This next sentence is as shocking to write as it is to read. LeBron James was blocked by Mario Hezonja on his game-winning shot attempt in his last appearance in the Garden.

Of course, both teams underwent offseason overhauls so this will not be a rematch of players. New York finished the game on a 15-1 run with Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Knox, and Damyean Dotson on the floor. Three of those Knicks are gone and the two left—Knox and Dotson—are settling into bench roles on the current Knicks.

The Lakers, on the other hand, parted ways with a host of young players—most notably Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart—to acquire Davis to be LeBron’s running mate. In more than 882 minutes on the court together this season, the pairing has a staggering net rating of +11.3 points per 100 possessions according to Basketball-Reference.

By comparison, New York’s best two-man combination this year is Marcus Morris Sr. and Elfrid Payton’s +1.0 net rating. The only other two-man combination with a positive rating is Payton and Julius Randle’s +0.2.

To recap, the Lakers are going to want to turn the page following a 32-point loss to the franchise’s longtime rival. James is going to want to wash out the rotten taste in his mouth from his last trip to MSG. And to top it all off, LeBron now has a dominant running mate who complements his game, unlike last year.

This has all the makings of a repeat of the Jan. 7 meeting between the Knicks and Lakers. That game ended in a 30-point blowout with James casually dropping 31 points on 6-for-12 from three-point range.

New York is coming off of an uplifting win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which the team put forth a balanced attack on offense and another sound defensive effort. As far as momentum goes, they have a little. Will that tiny shred of momentum be enough to overcome the buzzsaw that is the Los Angeles Lakers? Don’t count on it.

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