The Knicks head to California for a crucial NBA battle with the Lakers on Tuesday night. The Hawks are coming close in the race for #4, and they badly need a win here to hold them off for another day. L.A. is losing a lot, but did beat Phoenix in a blowout over the weekend to keep their hopes of avoiding the #7 seed very much alive.

New York has been winning big games all year, and it isn’t all that surprising anymore. RJ Barrett has been impressing from day one this season, making big plays and shots whenever the team needs it. He trained with famed shooting coach Drew Hanlen all offseason, and it’s clear that all of the time away from the end of last year (March) to the beginning of this one (December) gave him the time he needed to get better. He and Julius Randle have formed quite the 1-2 tandem.

L.A. meanwhile has some serious issues to clear up. They will probably have LeBron back today, despite the fact he was ruled out yesterday. The thing is, he mentioned a Tuesday return as a strong likelihood late last week, so it would be shocking if that doesn’t change. Anthony Davis comes off his best effort of the season, while the center rotation is now a bit murky. Marc Gasol is outplaying Montrezl Harrell, and it’s kind of confusing.

ODDS

  • SPREAD: The spread for Tuesday night is currently set at LAL -5.5
  • OVER/UNDER: The over/under is sitting at 213.5 points.
  • MONEYLINE: The Knicks moneyline is set at +188, while the Lakers is -230.

Knicks Seeking Critical Road Win

A victory on Tuesday night for the Knicks could go a long way toward helping them lock up the #4 seed in the East. They are just 0.5 games ahead of Atlanta at the time being, so they’re in a tight race. ATL was able to fend off a furious Wizards rally last night, in a game the Knicks probably wish went the other way. Can’t change what’s happened, though.

Randle has been dominant the entire season, and appears as if he’ll be the Knicks first All-NBA performer since Carmelo Anthony in 2013. It’s well deserved, as he has been shouldering the load and heavy minutes every single night. No days off for him, as he has transitioned from “overpaid forward” to team star. He put the time in all offseason and look at the player he has blossomed into.

The team has been leaning heavily on Barrett and Bullock, and will likely continue to. Shoutout to Derrick Rose, too. He tied a season-high with 25 in the last win. They’ll need Rose to be at his best again to help the team secure the win.

Lakers Looking for Some Rhythm

If you told me before the season that L.A. would deal with injuries to their two superstars and b 38-30 at this point in the year, I’d probably laugh and shrug it off. The Lakers, and the Heat too, have struggled with health and both are hovering between #6 and #7 in their respective conference. There probably won’t be a Finals rematch.

Assuming LeBron comes back, he’ll likely slot in as the starting point guard. This was a role he had last season, but has given it up as Dennis Schroder was acquired heading into the year. This moved him back to his original small forward spot. His assist numbers had been down from the nearly 11 per game a season ago, but he’s done some good work when healthy.

It’s been really unfortunate to see James so banged up, but the hope is that when the play-in/playoffs begin over the next week or so, he is healthy enough. The team will need Anthony Davis to outplay Randle today. If he doesn’t it could make picking up a win very difficult.

The weapons around the stars for L.A. aren’t what they were last year. But these guys are all professionals for a reason.

Everything Will Come Up Knicks

New York will cover the 5.5-point spread, getting enough help to keep the game close. They’ll also win the game straight up (+188) as they are going to be able to handle their opponents just fine.

The over/under is set at 213.5 and the over will be reached in this one. The defense won’t be good enough either way.

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Sports Writer by day, Sports Broadcaster by night. When I’m not doing either of these things, I’m probably playing pickup basketball at the park, or watching whatever NBA game is on the evening’s slate. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t try and learn more about the players in today’s league, as well as the history of them. I’m considered to be an anomaly with my sports fandoms as a Cavaliers, Ravens and Nationals fan.