It has been a very long time since the New York Knicks were favorites to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, they are not only favored but expected to win. You may be able to think all night and not remember the Knicks being in this position. It's a clear combination of the Knicks being successful and the Lakers faltering thus far throughout the season. The Knicks quick start has caught the eye and gained the respect of Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his teammates.
Tonights matchup between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers isn't a particularly important one in the scheme of the season. However, it's the first time Mike D'Antoni returns to Madison Square Garden as an opposing coach after his resignation. Beyond that, the Knicks are playing very well and the Lakers are struggling.
After all the success the Lakers have experienced over the years no one could be blamed for hoping the Knicks kick them while they are down. The Knicks have experienced plenty of lows and plenty of low blows. They are due for being on the other side of things. The fact that the Lakers are currently coached by Mike D'Antoni only adds to it. Most wouldn't mind seeing the Lakers lose in the same way the Miami Heat has twice this season to the hands of the Knickerbockers.
Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Knicks high level of play both impresses and concerns Kobe Bryant and Mike D'Antoni going into their matchup in Madison Square Garden (MSG).
Kobe knows the Knicks are playing at a high level right now.
"I think they’re playing fantastic," he said. "They’re very active on both ends of the floor. They’re shooting the ball extremely, extremely well and they’re just playing with a lot of energy."
D'Antoni too knows that the Knicks are playing better than they ever did under his watch.
Mike D'Antoni reiterated the concern in leaving the Knicks open on the outside.
"They're spreading the floor and one of the best things they do is not turn it over and they shoot 3s," he said. "Those are two big stats that win and they do it the best in the league."
It's clear Kobe understands and embraces the big stage that is MSG. However, that doesn't mean that just because he's in NY and his Lakers are struggling that he doesn't have his eyes on an upset tonight.
"Considering the last time D'Antoni was coaching here, and I was here and I gave him 61," he said, "yeah, I owe him a win here."
Bryant said he "loves" playing at the Garden.
"It’s the mecca of basketball," he said. "This is the spot. I always enjoy coming here."
Tonight Knicks fans will boo. They will boo the Lakers and mostly they will boo D'Antoni. When he's announced the crowd will likely take the opportunity to remind him how poorly he coached during his tenure in New York.
That being said, Kobe will play with a lot of confidence. He's one of the greatest players of all time and he knows it. A 4-8 start under D'Antoni won't prevent that.
However, while Kobe will have to look forward to a potential Lakers turn around, the Knicks will look to cause them damage while they can and keep their eyes on the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
Who will come out on top? Best guess is the Knicks will remain perfect at home and the fans will leave happy that D'Antoni's return doesn't go well. Obviously the Lakers could have something to say about that but this is an opponent the Knicks need to defeat. They need to.
The Knicks know it and so do the Lakers. These are two premiere organizations moving in two totally different directions. The Lakers need to get it together. The Knicks need to keep doing what they've been doing. Only time will tell. However, tonight should be fun to watch.
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