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Lakers: Andrew Bynum, DJ Mbenga
Knicks: Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury, Cuttino Mobley
We of course have a starting lineup change tonight, with Lamar Odom stepping in to play power forward and Pau Gasol sliding over to center. While this lineup is actually better equipped to play at New York’s seven-seconds-or-less tempo, it’s silly to think that the Lakers wouldn’t prefer to let Gasol and Bynum drop five-foot baby hooks over the smallish Knicks. Nonetheless, the Lakers are the more talented team; we’ll see if the rally-around-the-flag attitude that pushed L.A. to its second half domination of Memphis will carry over tonight in a rockin’ MSG.
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
Knicks: Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Al Harrington, David Lee and Jared Jeffries
11:46 A positive start for Odom, who caught the ball on the left wing, three-point line extended, and drove right past Lee (the Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week) before being fouled by Jeffries, resulting in two free throws (the second of which he missed).
10:41 After canning a deep jumper, Bryant pulled up for a deep three to make it 6-2 Lakers.
9:52 Kobe again with a deep jumper. Swish. In related news, Kobe likes to play in New York.
6:35 After a driving layup off Pau’s feed and an open jumper, Bryant had 13 points in 5:30 of play. The Knicks then missed another jumper (5-of-16, 31 percent from the field) and Gasol capitalized on a nice Odom pass to put L.A. up 18-11. Meanwhile, for better or worse, New York’s PA announcer is easily the most informative of any I’ve heard around the league this year.
5:17 Nate Robinson just came off the Knicks bench with Wilson Chandler, and Robinson was tagged by L.A.’s coaches as a guy to really watch this evening. Generally, the Knicks completely pick up their tempo when he enters.
And sure enough, New York scored two straight buckets to pull within three.
3:16 If you give him minutes, he puts up numbers. For Odom: one points, five boards, two assists (plus the pass that led to two Gasol free throws [made 1-of-2]) and two blocks. For his part, Gasol made 4-of-6 shots plus 2-of-3 foul shots to start the game with 10 points in nine minutes.
2:50 During a timeout with L.A. up by four, here’s a list of celebs in the crowd tonight: Mariano Rivera, America Ferrera, Jay-Z, John McEnroe, Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Westwick/Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl), Cheech Marin, and some Rangers players (like Scott Gomez). What’s funny is that this list was posted in the media room for photographers to scope. L.A. doesn’t really play like that with its stars.
Out of the timeout, Gasol made a free throw as Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza, Italian rookie Danilo Gallinari and Tim Thomas checked in.
2:24 BIG MVP chant for Kobe as he made two more free throws to get to 15 points. That’s probably the loudest road arena Kobe chant this year.
0:48.1 Wilson Chandler dropped a three on Kobe … Which didn’t sit well with Mamba, so he decided to put one on the Knicks 10 seconds later for a five-point lead.
0:01.5 Let’s give him credit for this one: Chandler pinned Bryant’s driving lay-in attempt near the first quarter buzzer to keep the score 31-26 heading into the second. It was surely a great display of athleticism from the second year player out of DePaul. Yet and still, Bryant put 18 first quarter points on him and Richardson to lead L.A.
10:12 Ariza, who was originally drafted in the second round by the Knicks and spent two less-than-spectacular years here, took out some aggression with a huge transition dunk over Tim Thomas.
9:07 A pretty lob pass from Vujacic to Gasol resulted in Pau’s dunk, to give him 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Pau’s had absolutely no trouble scoring in the paint on the Knicks, who aren’t quite sure how to defend him. After the ensuing timeout, Gasol got his first rest of the game, with Jackson opting for Josh Powell at the five and Vladi at the four.
8:32 Ariza just spun around Gallinari as if the rookie’s feet were stuck in Rome, rose and smashed a one-hander through from the baseline. Enter a plethora of “ooohhhs” and “aahhhs” often reserved for Kobe, plus a 40-32 Lakers lead.
7:30 Two-straight turnovers from Radmanovic turned into four Knicks points, cutting L.A.’s lead to one. The first came as he dribbled off his foot, the second after a bad pass intended for Ariza. Vladi thought he was being pulled when Kobe checked in, but it was Farmar who sat, leaving Vujacic to guard Duhon.
Bryant immediately took advantage of the space afforded him by a drive-wary Chandler and pulled up for his third triple. Well, it didn’t take Bryant long to get going again, huh?
6:27 It seems to be ones of those (Mamba) nights for Kobe, who first crossed Chandler over on the perimeter, rose and buried another jumper. Then he pulled up again on the next possession from deep (swish) before rising up in transition to throw down a dunk.
“MVP … MVP … MVP” chants wore on for about two minutes after the Knicks called timeout with 5:44 to play. Kobe was 10-of-14 from the field for 27 points in about 14 minutes to give L.A. a 49-42 lead.
If you’re the Lakers, you’re probably cool with Kobe taking a few more heat-check jumpers, but it should be time to go back in the paint to Pau shortly.
4:21 After a great feed from Kobe to Odom for a slam, Gasol returned for Powell.
When Kobe scored again on a Jordan double-pump fake jumper to get to 29 points, he and Pau had combined for 43 of L.A.’s 53 points.
2:11 As Walton drew a foul while trying to pass to Odom and missed 1-of-2 (L.A. 9-of-13 from the line), Farmar checked in for Fisher, most likely to try and deal better with Robinson.
1:56 Bryant’s transition dunk set off a quick 5-0 Lakers run, capped by 1-of-2 (again) Odom free throws that made it 62-47. In the middle of those two plays was a nice swat of a Robinson three by Walton, plus Luke’s pull-up jumper.
0:42.2 MVP chant, again, for an all-business Kobe after a driving and-1 that gave him 34 points. The combination of latent anger over Bynum’s injury and the NYC spotlight lesson the surprise about Bryant’s burst, but still… decent stuff. His final line was 13-of-20 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line plus two assists.
Harrington did answer with a three to make it a 65-54 Lakers lead at the break.
Kobe almost made us forget that Andrew Bynum’s out for 8-to-12 weeks with his barrage. But here’s what Bynum had to say before the game:
11:44 Harrington canned a tough three while moving to his left on the perimeter, then made two free throws on the next possession as the Knicks kept the ball due to Odom’s open path foul on Al. N.Y. then got two free throws from Lee after a foul on Gasol on the pick and roll, and the Knicks had scored seven points in one minute to make it a four-point game. What an awful way to start the quarter for L.A.
10:50 Odom answered by cutting through the lane and finished a nice Gasol pass with a dunk.
9:20 Kobe swatted a potential game-tying layup attempt from Richardson, and Walton scored in the lane at the other end to make it 69-65. Bynum’s presence in the lane (or lack there of) is certainly missed by the Lakers, who needed their shooting guard to clean up the paint. By the way, New York’s “center” Jeffries is guarding Kobe.
7:07 Kobe’s second tough, fade-away jumper in a minute put L.A.’s lead at 75-67, as he and Gasol had combined for 56 points. But Lee and Harrington then scored easily at L.A.’s unprotected rim.
Check out the early-third stat lines from Kobe, Lamar and Pau:
Kobe Bryant: 40 points, two assists, one block
Pau Gasol: 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists
Lamar Odom: Six points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks
5:11 Kobe’s 42nd point came on a kind of ridiculous running shot that mirrored his left-to-right action late in Memphis. That’s his new season high, as he had 41 in Orlando.
3:36 As soon as Kobe finally missed back-to-back jumpers, the Knicks capitalized to get within six at 84-78. But out of a timeout, Bryant drew a foul on Duhon from the perimeter, and sunk both as L.A. was in the bonus.
2:06 Harrington, who’s been playing very well en route to a Knicks high 24 points, got stuffed by Odom for the Queens native’s third swat.
0:48.2 Farmar for three, from Kobe. A nice time for Jordan to step up here, capping a 7-0 run that also saw him grab a tough defensive board and set up Pau’s put-back jam. L.A. 96, Knicks 84.
The quarter ended with L.A. holding a 10-point lead over the Knicks, and Kobe resting on the bench. Pau would stay in with Vujacic, Farmar, Ariza and Odom to try and protect the lead.
10:23 L.A. put four points on the lead with a Ariza layup and two Gasol free throws to start the period strong.
10:15 PEEZY! Josh Powell just destroyed a Lee dunk attempt … That might have been the biggest Lakers block this season.
9:20 ARIZA! (OK it’s hard to emphasize things without caps lock). Trevor followed a Vujacic miss with a massive one-handed jam, simply cupping the ball after it bounced off the rim and throwing it with force directly back into the cup.
8:33 With Bryant still on the bench, Gasol nailed a baseline jumper to give L.A. a 104-91 lead. Thomas responded with a three, but Gasol then spun baseline for a dunk to get to 31 points.
7:30 Think the bench cooled Kobe off? Nope. Jumper, 46 points, 14-point lead.
6:06 And we’re at 50. Bryant hit two free throws courtesy of Josh Powell’s second offensive board in a minute.
5:50 Ouch. Peezy went down haaaard on his head and back after trying to block a Robinson runner … But obviously he got right up. He might star in the new G.I. Joe’s movie. Into a timeout out of which Kobe was set to go to the foul line, L.A. held a 112-98 lead. He made both, then stuck two more a minute later to go 15-for-15 from the charity stripe. We’re at 54 and counting with 5:12 remaining.
4:18 The best way to protect an 18-point lead isn’t to throw the ball to Spike Lee in his courtside seat on consecutive possessions, but that’s what L.A. did. Fortunately for the purple and gold, N.Y. could pull only two points back before Kobe pulled his swing through move on Chandler to draw three foul shots. He made ‘em all (18-of-18) to get to 57.
3:23 59. The latest came on an up-and-under spin around Chandler. It’s almost unfair, but even the Knicks fans are loving it.
2:45 N.Y. had hit back-to-back threes, the second of which Ariza countered with a three of his own. Then came an Odom steal and dish to Kobe in the frontcourt, which put him back at the line. He can miss one and get to 60.
Nah, made ‘em both. He’s 19-of-31 from the field and 20-of-20 from the foul line, and the Lakers led 126-106.
1:48 Wow. When’s the last time an opposing player left the floor of a regular season game to a standing ovation from the home crowd as chants of “MVP” rang loudly through the arena? That’s what just happened for Kobe.
So, the Knicks decided to score a few points to close the game as L.A. played token defense, and the final score read 126-117 (OK, the Knicks scored 11 straight worthless points).
But surely the lasting memory for everyone in the building tonight were Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden record 61 points. Amazing that for the entire history of this arena that 61 holds the candle; Bryant generally claims not to care at all about numbers and records, but this one might mean a lil’ bit, right?