Here is what you need to know before the Lakers conclude their homestand against the New York Knicks.
1) KCP is hitting his stride
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is coming off two of his most impactful games of the season, scoring 26 points against Sacramento on Sunday and 25 versus Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
KCP led the Lakers in scoring in both games, and has done so by wielding his 3-point shot, hitting 10-of-24 from deep in that two-game span.
KCP has been one of the Lakers’ best shooters this season, especially on spot-up attempts (NBA’s 80th percentile) and corner 3’s (44.8 percent).
And he has, crucially, provided the league’s 13th-best percentage on free throws (88.8) for a team that ranks last in that category (68.8).
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 31, 2018
2) Injuries have taken their toll on the Lakers
They Lakers have gone just 1-3 since losing LeBron James to a strained groin, and they will have to face another game without their superstar.
And unfortunately for the Lakers, the loss of James has coincided with the absences of Rajon Rondo (finger surgery) and Michael Beasley (personal).
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers have taken their biggest hit on the offensive side of the ball without James — who is averaging 27.3 points per game. In its four gams without LeBron, L.A. ranks just 26th in offensive rating (102.5).
The Lakers are hoping that matters don’t take a turn for the worse, as second-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma (18.3 points) is questionable due to low back soreness.
Either way, look for the likes of Brandon Ingram (16.0) and JaVale McGee (11.8) to shore up the scoring.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 29, 2018
3) Knicks are in a freefall
It’s been a rough few weeks for New York, which has lost 13 of its last 14 games, sinking into the league’s third-worst record.,
The Knicks have lacked on both sides of the ball, but defense has been the biggest issue, as they rank second-to-last on that end.
Offensively, they have shot the league’s worst field goal percentage during their 14-game slide (42.5), but they do have the weapons to give the Lakers problems, especially on a shorthanded night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is averaging more than 20 points. Emmanuel Mudiay is hitting his stride out of pick-and-rolls. Luke Kornet has averaged 18.7 points and 62.5 percent 3-point shooting over his last three games.
The Lakers will need a full effort for victory, regardless of New York’s recent drought.
Lakers: Kyle Kuzma (low back contusion) is questionable. LeBron James (strained left groin), Rajon Rondo (right ring finger surgery) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) are out. Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Knicks: Mitchell Robinson (sprained left ankle) is questionable. Kristaps Porzingis (left knee) is out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple City
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
Source: Los Angeles Lakers