Aiming to string together fourth consecutive victories for the first time since December 17, the Los Angeles Lakers (27-11) played host to the New York Knicks (21-15) on Sunday evening.
Donning their traditional Sunday white uniforms, the Lakers came into the contest not having lost to the Knicks in the two teams’ last six face offs. The last time the Lakers were bested by the Knicks was in February of 2007. However, the Knicks carried their own streak into the contest, as they had won their last nine games against Western Conference foes.
After playing a flat and lackluster first four minutes of play, the Lakers were able to bounce back from five early turnovers and took their first lead of the game at the 4:03 mark. They were led by the tough interior scoring of Andrew Bynum, who used an array of dunks, tips and post moves to score eight points in a three-minute stretch that saw the Lakers outscore the Knicks 12-7.
Behind five unanswered points from Lamar Odom, the Lakers increased that scoring run to 17-7, before allowing back-to-back baskets from Wilson Chandler, who recorded 10 points, three steals and two blocks in the first 12 minutes of play.
Despite turning the ball over seven times, the Lakers were literally able to rebound their way back into the game, as they pulled down 18 rebounds in the period – helping them take a 25-21 advantage heading into the second period.
The second quarter was opened with a barrage of three pointers, as New York’s Bill Walker and the Lakers’ Shannon Brown each provided their respective teams with a double-dose of triples.
Following yet another conversion from behind-the-arc – this time by the Knicks’ Landry Field – Brown found an opening in the lane and threw down a classic one-handed hammer to put the Lakers up 34-30.
However, the Knicks took back the lead after going on a 6-0 run to put them in the lead 36-34.
But the Lakers did not let the Knicks’ run get in their head, and Bynum tipped in an offensive rebound to tie the game at 36.
After missing his first five shots, Amaré Stoudemire scored his first bucket of the game, putting the scoreboard back in the Knicks’ favor, 38-36.
A successful three-point-play by Pau Gasol put the Lakers back on top, 41-40, as the Lakers big men continued to overmatch the Knicks’ diminutive roster, which only sees two big men – Stoudemire and former Laker Ronny Turiaf – averaging over 15 minutes per game.
Odom and Bynum found holes in the Knicks’ post defense, allowing them to score four quick points, then Bynum found a wide-open Kobe Bryant for a three pointer to give the Lakers a five-point lead, 52-47, as the two teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime.
Bynum, Gasol and Odom took complete advantage of the Knicks’ big men, as they combined for 29 points and 23 rebounds in the first 24 minutes of play.
Kobe also chipped in nine points, five rebounds and three assists for the Lakers, but struggled with his shot as he missed nine of his 13 attempts and turned the ball over three times.
Picking up where he left off, Kobe opened up the second half for the Lakers with back-to-back three-point daggers, giving the purple and gold their largest lead of the night, 58-49. But the Knicks’ Shawne Williams found his stroke and he knocked down a triple of his own to cut the Lakers’ advantage to six.
A breakaway dunk by the Knicks’ Raymond Felton ended a 6-0 run by the Lakers, but Gasol found Kobe for a back door alley-oop throwback slam dunk to put the Lakers up by 12. After picking up a defensive stop on the next play down, Gasol scored down low to increase the Lakers lead to 14.
Gasol converted two free throws to give the Lakers a 16-point lead – their largest of the night. After Stoudemire made his third basket in 14 attempts, the Lakers found Bynum down low, and he posterized Stoudemire with a thunderous one-handed slam to put the Lakers back up by 16.
With 42.9 seconds remaining in the period, Amare was sent to the floor on a drive attempt by the extended arm of Ron Artest, who consequently was assessed a flagrant foul.
The penalty on the Lakers resulted in five points for the Knicks, as Amare converted both free throws and Walker knocked down his third triple of the game. However, Brown nailed a contested, fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to give the Lakers a double-digit lead, 81-70, heading into the fourth and final period.
Despite coming into the quarter on a high-note, the fourth frame didn’t begin on the same note, as Bynum was ejected after picking up two technicals in the first 34 seconds of play.
The Knicks converted on three of their four free throws that came from Bynum’s ejection – cutting the Lakers’ lead to eight; however, Kobe scored his 21st and 23rd points of the game to put the Lakers back ahead by double-digits.
Refusing to let their lead get away, the Lakers remained in control for the rest of the period as they coasted to a 109-87 victory over the Knicks.
Kobe scored eight points in the fourth quarter, and was one of three Lakers who finished with a double-double, as he posted numbers of 27 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five assists.
Odom played a pivotal role off of the bench for the Lakers, as he led the Lakers’ effort on the glass as he ended the game with 13 points and 18 rebounds.
Pau provided a strong presence as well, posting 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals.
Brown was also a big spark off of the bench for the Lakers, as he poured in 16 points in under 20 minutes of play.
The Lakers dominated inside, as the Knicks allowed 50 point in the paint and were out-rebounded by 61-42.
Stoudemire, who is averaging 26.3 PPG on 52.1 percent shooting from the field this season, was neutralized on offense by the Lakers’ big men, and he finished with 23 points on a dismal 10 of 24 shooting. But he was able to impact the Knicks’ defense as he recorded six blocks and pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Lakers were playing their first game without backup forward Matt Barnes, who will be out action for several weeks after tearing his right meniscus in the Lakers’ win over New Orleans on Friday. The injury will require surgery, which is scheduled to take place sometime this week.
After a one day of rest, the Lakers will return to the court on Tuesday as they play host to the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29), who continued to experience a season of strain, as they lost Anderson Varejao for the season after he tore a tendon in his right ankle during the Cavs’ 108-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns tonight.