Carmelo Anthony (7) scored 34 points against the Denver Nuggets, his former… (Jason DeCrow / Associated…)
The Lakers (9-13) visit the New York Knicks (16-5) on Thursday night, hoping to shake a three-game losing streak as they face the first-place team in the Eastern Conference.
New York has been a revelation this season, despite playing without Amare Stoudemire (knee). It has already beaten the Miami Heat twice, won in San Antonio and has yet to lose at home in eight tries.
The Lakers have been in a tailspin, struggling without Steve Nash (leg), Pau Gasol (knees) and Steve Blake (abdominal strain). Gasol's status remains up in the air but he may be able to return Thursday.
The Knicks are without Iman Shumpert (knee) and Marcus Camby (plantar fasciitis), but New York boasts tremendous depth to go with its star power.
Carmelo Anthony has been a force this season, averaging 27.7 points a game while shooting 46.5% from the field and 44.9% from three-point range.
Anthony has always been a difficult cover and he's one of the reasons the Lakers signed Metta World Peace in the first place, prior to Anthony's trade from the Denver Nuggets to the Knicks.
World Peace isn't a major scorer for the Lakers, but when he does put up numbers he can change the complexion of a game. More important, he'll be asked to slow down Anthony, which is likely a vital component in taking out the Knicks.
Anthony has shifted to power forward but World Peace will certainly get significant minutes against New York's leading scorer.
Tyson Chandler always seems to be a problem. He certainly was a major factor in the Dallas Mavericks' championship run that went through the Lakers. In addition to his defense on Dwight Howard, Chandler protects the basket well for his teammates.
Another player to watch is Jason Kidd. The veteran guard has been one of the better defenders against Kobe Bryant over the last decade or so.
The Lakers haven't played consistently on defense for some time now. There's no individual X-factor. As a team the Lakers need to pull together defensively against a Knicks squad that averages 101.5 points a night.
The Lakers don't look like a team capable of beating anyone right now, let alone a Knicks outfit that is perfect at home.
It's just too much to expect this discombobulated Lakers squad to leave Madison Square Garden with a victory.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.