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Things to watch in Knicks-Lakers matchup

December 29, 2011 | 12:32 pm

Amare Stoudemire/Rajon Rondo

1. The Lakers should benefit from rest. After playing three games in consecutive nights, the Lakers took the day off Wednesday. Even before that, the Lakers appeared surprisingly energetic in their 96-71 victory Tuesday over the Utah Jazz, though any poor team can make its opponent appear great. Still, the Lakers had a chance to rest their weary legs while the New York Knicks arrive at Staples Center fresh off a 92-78 loss Wednesday to the Golden State Warriors. 

2. This marks the last game without Andrew Bynum. Because of that the Lakers could have their hands full matching up with Tyson Chandler, who remains one of the top defensive players in the league. Pau Gasol certainly knows the perils of matching up against him from the Lakers' semifinals sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers will also miss Bynum's presence in the way he has shut down Amare Stoudemire's production.

Still, if anything about the Knicks' loss to the Warriors taught us, it's that New York is hardly a polished unit yet. Chandler played only 21½ minutes because of foul trouble, and the Lakers' frontline could certainly goad Chandler into making those mistakes again. Meanwhile, Stoudemire proved to be just as erratic, scoring 14 points off five-of-16 shooting. Considering their talent, those numbers will hardly reflect the numbers Chandler and Stoudemire post on a regular basis. But in the short term, it's plausible the Knicks could go through another dry spell or immediately bounce back. It largely hinges on how the Lakers' frontline defends them.

3. Look for Kobe Bryant to have a big night. In the past eight games against New York since the 2007-08 season, Bryant has averaged 34.1 points per game. Aside from motivations from showing up longtime Knicks fan Spike Lee, there's plenty of reason Bryant can go off on another scoring spree. He's a day removed from rest, which likely gave him more time to receive treatment on the torn ligament in his right wrist. Friend and offensive playmaker Carmelo Anthony is in town, and it's far from presumptuous to think Bryant would want to surpass anything 'Melo does. And yeah, New York isn't exactly known to be a solid defensive team. 

4. How will Metta World Peace defend Anthony? In most cases, it's a no-brainer that World Peace would match up with the opposing team's best player. But with World Peace coming off the bench, this brings up different questions. Will Lakers Coach Mike Brown consider starting World Peace when the Lakers match against teams with elite scorers? Or will World Peace simply enter the game earlier and when Anthony is on the floor? Or will Brown assign someone else to defend Anthony? We haven't asked Brown yet but surely will before tipoff.

5. The Lakers have more depth than the Knicks. New York's options are limited by injuries to Baron Davis, Jared Jeffries and Iman Shumpert, while newcomers Mike Bibby, Steve Novak, Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan are all figuring out their roles. The Lakers may have a lot of needs right now, but only three games into the season they seem to have clearly defined roles among their utility players. Whether it's World Peace operating in the post, Josh McRoberts making hustle plays or Troy Murphy spacing the floor out, the Lakers' role players should have a field day against the Knicks. 


Metta World Peace feels more comfortable with bench role

Lakers lack championship roster

Lakers vow to keep intensity during shortened season

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Boston's Rajon Rondo tangles with the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire on Sunday in the season opener at Madison Square Garden in New York. Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press