HomeBasketball TodayDefensive Brilliance Shatters Knicks' Streak: Lakers Celebrate Epic Team Effort!

Defensive Brilliance Shatters Knicks’ Streak: Lakers Celebrate Epic Team Effort!

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The Lakers clamped down on the Knicks in the fourth quarter on the way to earn a tough win at Madison Square Garden.

The Los Angeles Lakers followed up their unlikeliest win of the season with their most complete — and arguably their most impressive. Led by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and spot-on fourth-quarter defensive execution, the Lakers (26-25) fended off Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks, thus ending their nine-game winning streak.

“It’s a big win for us, trying to just keep it going from the momentum them guys had in Boston,” said Davis.

In the wake of Jarred Vanderbilt’s potentially season-ending foot injury, Darvin Ham rolled out Starting Lineup No. 15, inserting Rui Hachimura for Taurean Prince (Prince had started all 47 of his appearances). The lineup was effective enough, and Ham said the plan is “definitely” to stick to that unit going forward as he knocked on the podium (acting as wood).

Who closed was more notable. LeBron, AD, Reaves, Prince (16 points), and Max Christie (team-high +10) was deployed with 8:49 left in regulation and soon began a nearly-seven-minute stretch in which they held the Knicks scoreless. Overall, the Lakers, down six after three quarters, outscored the Knicks 33-10 until the final 40 seconds when the outcome was all but decided. They blitzed, communicated, covered, recovered, and turned turnovers into buckets. The effort was particularly impressive sans Vando.

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“For us, our DNA is getting stops on defense,” said Christie. “I think we did a really good job of that in the fourth.”

Reaves was HIM down the stretch; dialed-in and cold-blooded against a pair of his Team USA running mates (Brunson, Josh Hart). Reaves, in his Garden debut, finished with 22 points (14 in the fourth), six rebounds, and seven assists in 39 minutes. He has 82 points over the last three games. At morning shootaround, LeBron stressed the importance of Reaves and D’Angelo Russell (16 points) asserting themselves as scorers.

“When you’re aggressive, then that gives the defense a little indecision,” Reaves said about supporting LeBron and AD. “And then you can get them the ball, and they can do whatever they’ve been doing for —Bron, a hundred years, and AD, twelve.”

Davis, as great players do, dominated despite a 4-of-12 shooting night. The All-Star grabbed 18 rebounds, dished five assists, and blocked four shots. AD — out the last two games with hip spasms — said he was focused on “putting an “imprint” on the action.

“I can do it on both ends of the floor,” stated the Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

“People probably gonna say AD didn’t have the best game in the world,” noted Reaves. “But the way he protected our paint — that one possession when he had two blocks, and then it led out to the foul-layup I had. Just situations like that, people don’t really cherish enough. … His second effort took away two points for them and gave us four points.”

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LeBron (24 points, 10-for-19 FG, five rebounds, five assists), meanwhile, delivered just enough in what might be his final performance at his favorite venue.

These are the types of situations in which the Lakers want to find themselves: Big-game atmosphere, tight in crunch-time, defensive and physical hoops. They can clamp down, AD can gobble everything up, while LeBron and Reaves can orchestrate.

“Just everything,” Ham said about what came together in the final period. “Bron, his assignment was basically to be a one-man zone. You had Max chasing (Dante DiVincenzo) around. Great, great team effort. And AD just cleaning up the glass, getting every defensive rebound it seemed like. And AR, being the head guy, coming off his guy. And just trusting our rotations behind us.”

“It’s a great team win. Last couple games, we said to ourselves we needed to get back to a defensive mindset. Get back to getting stops. We were able to do that Thursday, and again tonight.”

The Lakers close out their six-game road trip at the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. Can’t lay an egg. Not after this.


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