By Maximo Gonzales
The Los Angeles Lakers (1-4) got their road trip off to a solid start, defeating the Brooklyn Nets 104-98 last Friday. The Lakers displayed a balanced offensive attack and for the first time this season held an opponent to under 100 points.
Los Angeles would try to keep that winning formula going as they head across the Hudson River to face the New York Knicks (2-4). No doubt two of the more storied organizations in the NBA, with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher now at the helm of the New York franchise, this makes for an interesting early season matchup in Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks got off to a hot start with a couple of three’s from Carmelo Anthony and the former Laker, Sasha Vujacic. The Lakers then countered with a soft floater from D’Angelo Russell to bring the score 10-4 in favor of the Knicks. Kobe got it going on the defensive end, poking the ball away from Carmelo en route to a Jordan Clarkson finish on the other end to cut the lead to two. That seemed to get it going for Kobe as he caught fire midway through the first, scoring seven straight points for the purple and gold to tie the game at 18. The two sides continued to go back and forth before the Lakers took the lead 23-22 with two minutes left in the quarter on a pair of Lou Williams’ free throws. Sweet Lou would hit another jumper as the first quarter came to the end all tied up at 25. The Lakers did a great job of taking the ball to begin the game with only one turnover in the first.
Tarik Black made his presence felt with a couple of strong finishes at the rim coming off sweet dimes from Kobe and Williams to tie the game at 29. The bench for the Lakers started to take over after a steal from Williams would lead to an alley-oop finish to Larry Nance to put Los Angeles up by three. Knicks guard Langston Galloway ignited the offense by hitting a three followed by a fast break layup to give New York the lead 38-37. Metta World Peace got some heavy minutes in, applying his heavy dose of defense with blocks on Carmelo and rookie Kristaps Porzingis. He then began contributing on the offensive end with a three to put the Lakers back up 42-40. The draft class of 2015 started to make some noise with two minutes left in the half as Porzingis hit a three to put the Knicks up by one. Russell would answer back setting up a soft jumper of his own to regain the lead. The Lakers ended the half on a high note with a three-pointer from Clarkson with the score, 49-45.
The second half began much like the first, with Vujacic hitting a jumper of the Carmelo assist. Randle came back with his second and third buckets of the game coming on a delicious dime from Russell as the Lakers took a 55-47 lead. Carmelo kept the Knicks in the game with a couple of his signature soft jumpers to cut the Laker lead to four. With about eight minutes left in the third, there was a strange sequence of events that included three steals in less than 15 seconds that resulted in a missed layup by Clarkson. Shortly after, Derek Fisher was ejected for yelling at the ref after Kobe was fouled by Porzingis at the three-point line. The Knicks answered back with back-to-back finishes by Robin Lopez to bring the score to 58-57 midway through the third. The Lakers would break a two-minute scoring drought with a three from Clarkson followed by a smooth jumper from Russell to retake the lead 65-63. The Knicks took back the lead with 2:00 remaining in the third with four straight points from Lance Thomas. Nick Young would finish off the quarter with a nice drive and finish. However, the Knicks would lead by one heading into the fourth.
The Lakers got the fourth quarter going with Tarik Black and Kobe switching off hitting shots to take a 74-72 lead. The two combined to score the first eight points for L.A. before Jose Calderon answered back with a three to tie the game at 78. World Peace started to catch fire with a jumper, followed by a three to give the Lakers an 86-80 lead with seven minutes left to go in the game. Carmelo would not be silenced as he came back with a three of his own to cut the Laker lead to three. Both teams went cold from the floor before Carmelo ended the drought with a mid-range jumper to give him 20 in the game with the score 86-85. Intensity began to rise down the final stretch, as a battle on the boards would send Roy Hibbert to the line to sink his eighth free-throw giving him 16 for the day. With two minutes left in the fourth, Langston Galloway hit a three, followed by a pair of free-throws from Carmelo to give the Knicks a 94-90 lead. The Lakers went six minutes without a field goal before finally getting on the board with a putback by Hibbert with 20 seconds left. But it would be too little too late as the Knicks would escape with a 99-95 win.