After a spectacular overtime victory in Boston the night before, the Los Angeles Lakers were off to the Big Apple to face the newly improved New York Knicks. The Knicks, who were facing the Lakers after winning three straight games, had a new boost of confidence in the name of Jeremy Lin. Lin, who stepped up to face the Lakers averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the last three games, was filling the void the Knicks were holding due to the absence of both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Lakers, however, were entering known territory in New York City still on a high from their Boston stunner less than 24 hours before. While Madison Square Garden was buzzing with “Lin-fever”, L.A. were looking to get their second straight victory, with only one game remaining in their Grammy road trip before their return to Los Angeles. Being the house that Kobe Bryant dropped 61 points in just over three years prior, the Lakers were looking for another big victory over the Knicks before heading to Canada to face the Raptors.
Neither team was capable of scoring a basket within the first two minutes of play until Kobe opened up the game with a pair of free throws off of a Landry Fields foul. The Lakers size seemed to stagger Lin and the rest of the Knicks roster within the opening minutes of the game, as their drive in layups didn’t look as simple as before against the three less caliber teams they had recently faced. They quickly found a solution on the outside with pick and rolls and quick jumpers to take a nine point lead within the first five minutes, seven of those points coming from Lin himself.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were unable to find a rhythm early, as the Lakers shot a poor 1-8 with no help from the duo’s mere 1-5. Strong defense and rebounding in the paint kept the Lakers away from easy shot opportunities, leading to early frustrations and Bryant looking to shoot more than pass in the opening quarter, unlike how he has been plying in recent games. L.A. tried to make up for the increased pressure with faster ball movement and more shots from beyond the arc, but their shots were not dropping, and the Knicks pulled away to an 11 point lead with three minutes remaining.
Once the Knicks resulted to double teaming Kobe, he began moving the ball elsewhere and was eventually able to find Matt Barnes baseline to drain a three and get the Lakers up to 2-14 from the field. The Lakers continued getting killed by poor passing decisions, turnovers and the double teaming the Knicks were introducing to more than Kobe, and New York came out of the first quarter on top 22-15.
The Knicks continued hitting their shot opportunities as soon as the quarter began, and the Lakers continued to be incapable of getting their own offensive rhythm started. Both Bryant and Gasol took a seat on the bench, giving the second string an opportunity to put life into Los Angeles for the first time in the game. Steve Blake began making the impact the Lakers had been missing in his absence due to injury, assisting back to back baskets to force the Knicks to take the first timeout of the quarter.
New York continued hitting wide range threes and uncontested jumpers, and their defensive presence was enough to get the Lakers to shoot below 30 percent with less than six minutes remaining in the half. A loss of focus for the Knicks led to back to back turnovers from Jeremy Lin, and the Lakers took the opportunity to cut the lead to only seven. Still, shooting 4-16 out of their starters within the first 19 minutes of play for L.A. was the key reason they were unable to keep up with the pace New York was bringing to the court.
One positive thing the Lakers were building off of in the final five minutes of the half was strong drives to the basket, influencing a spurt of trips to the line, mainly done by Kobe Bryant. Gasol and Fisher finally started scoring some baskets, hitting back to back long range jumpers to put themselves within five. Jeremy Lin retook control of the Knicks offense as soon as the visitors began posing a threat, assisting and being a part of three consecutive plays to boost their lead back up to nine. A driving layup by Lin made the Garden’s crowd roar with excitement, performing a stellar spin move around Derek Fisher to lay in the bucket.
Derek Fisher continued to struggle offensively, shooting 1-5 in the first half alone and not being able to keep up defensively with the youth and flash that Jeremy Lin brought to each play. Matt Barnes was a leading factor to why the Lakers ended the half only being down by a single digit margin, sporting seven points of his own with four rebounds and several big defensive plays to keep the Knicks surging offense in check. Los Angeles had a lot to discuss at half time if they were wanting to compete with the Knicks in the second half, as the Knicks finished the half ahead, 49-41.
If the Lakers were looking to head out of New York with a win, they simply needed to start making the baskets from the opportunities they were creating for themselves, and they were needing to pair someone with Lin who could handle his offensive speed. They were also had to look to get Bynum in the game. Andrew Bynum’s stats in the first half looked as if he was on the bench for about 20 minutes, scoring only one basket, not getting himself to the free throw line and having two points to show for it. A lot of things were dying for improvement in the second half, but considering how poorly L.A. played in the first, all they could really do is improve.
The Knicks opened up the half with better offensive movement and tenacity to get every ball, blowing the Lakers out of the water within the first couple of minutes. Kobe Bryant continued missing the shots he seemed have no issue with the night before, stooping as low as 1-10 from the field. A loss of composure from Metta World Peace added another thing to the Lakers list of woes, committing two fouls within two plays and quickly putting the Knicks in the bonus.
Kobe Bryant began getting back on track, making back to back baskets for the Lakers and igniting the spark they had seemed to be missing since overtime in Boston the night before. A 23 foot three point jumper from Steve Blake brought L.A. back within four, their closest of the game. Bryant had a total of 10 points in the third quarter alone, accompanied by Blake’s four, to look to outshine the effort the Knicks had been showing off the whole game. It seemed to work, as the Lakers outscored the Knicks for the first time in a quarter in the third, 19-17. Los Angeles needed to continue this spurt of effort in the fourth quarter if they were looking to get another road win, while the Knicks finished the quarter once again on top, 66-60.
Bill Walker continued hitting important baskets for the Knicks, especially a big three to open up the last quarter of the game to put his team up eight. The tides quickly turned, however, with Kobe Bryant making an even larger comeback with four points within two offensive plays and Jason Kapono hitting a response three to cut the Knicks lead to a matching three. The Lakers defense continued to be shut down due to the movement and speed the Knicks were bringing to the court, as a big jumper from the outside by Lin put the home side back up nine forcing a L.A. time out.
Jeremy Lin had the largest game of his career with that jumper, getting himself up to 34 points and being the clear leader of the Knicks offense. The game Lin was having was a harsh reminder of what the Lakers were clearly missing from their offense, as both Fisher and Blake were unable to control or give any decent responses to it. Iman Shumpert also came out to play in the fourth quarter, making some big plays and sending himself to the line to get seven points in the first six minutes of the fourth.
Kobe Bryant’s footwork and big shots kept the Lakers in contest for most of the fourth, but back to back baskets from Jeremy Lin proved the possibility of any sort of comeback to be far fetched. A large lack of rebounding and impact in the paint was a dagger to the heart of the Lakers offense, as every player in a Knicks jersey had no problem driving to the basket for high percentage shots. For the eighth time this season L.A. was unable to hit 90 points. A poor game from Andrew Bynum was too much for a Kobe Bryant comeback to single-handedly overcome, as the Lakers fell short to the Knicks in New York City, 85-92.
The Lakers close out their six game road trip in Toronto on Sunday to face the Raptors.