Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening contest at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Knicks: R. Felton, J. Kidd, R. Brewer, C. Anthony, T. Chandler
7:00 Carmelo Anthony shot 33.5% from three last season, but showed why he’s among the league leaders at 45 percent by draining three from downtown in the first few minutes. The only player in the league scoring more points than him, Kobe Bryant, did have an answer with two triples of his own, plus a long two, that cut New York’s lead to three at 16-13. The lead had been as many as eight (13-5) before Kobe got going.
0:00 Anthony continued a fantastic individual quarter by nailing all but one of nine field goal attempts (22 points), the Knicks shooting 74 percent as a team to take a 41-27 lead out of the period. Bryant kept L.A. somewhat afloat with 13 points (hitting his first three triples), but the defense was very poor, and both Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill picked up two personal fouls.
8:05 Things became increasingly painful for the Lakers, who found themselves suddenly down 58-32 after Rasheed Wallace backed up consecutive three-pointers from Steve Novak by hitting a fading triple in the corner, even with Howard in his face. That made it a 58-32 margin. L.A.’s second unit players like Earl Clark and Devin Ebanks were struggling, but with injuries to Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Steve Blake, Mike D’Antoni had no choice but to use them.
2:28 L.A. found a bit of life, going on a 15-4 run capped by Howard’s and-1 and then put-back of an airball from Devin Ebanks, yet the deficit remained huge at 62-45. Ebanks had six of those 15 points, but had a few defensive breakdowns on the other end that had plagued L.A. throughout, helping the Knicks to 8 of 10 triples. However, New York responded with a quick 6-0 run to push the margin right back into the 20′s at halftime: 68-49.
8:12 Dwight Howard got a 5-footer to fall off Kobe’s third assist, but Carmelo answered with an and-1 to put the Knicks up 20 at 77-57. Anthony had 29 points, Howard 18 and Bryant 13, the Knicks still hitting 60.8 percent of their shots, the Lakers only 39.2 percent.
5:54 We learned that Bryant was suffering from back spasms, which helps explains his lack of lift while missing nine straight shots after starting the game 4 of 4. L.A. had the lead cut slightly to 16 points after Ebanks scored at the rim, but Howard picked up his fourth PF, bringing No. 60 overall pick Robert Sacre into the game.
3:21 Mike D’Antoni couldn’t believe that L.A. missed yet another rotation on D and left Steve Novak – who only shoots threes – wide open for him to hit his fourth in as many attempts. Meeks did answer with a triple, but the lead was still 19. Meanwhile: Anthony, who scored 30 points in 23 minutes, hurt his ankle earlier in the quarter and was listed as “doubtful” to return. And with that in mind, L.A. put a bit of pressure on the Knicks with a 7-0 run to close the quarter (capped by Kobe’s three), the lead cut to 13 heading into the final period.
7:48 A quick 5-0 run from World Peace, who hit his 3rd triple and two foul shots to reach 18 points, cut the Knicks lead to 11. L.A. was in striking distance, but would need to find a way to get stops, which they hadn’t even in their best defensive quarter (NYK 25 in the 3rd).
3:48 After Bryant came up with a real tricky three in the corner off a deflection (29 points, nine boards, five assists in 40 minutes) to cut it to just seven, the Knicks reeled off a quick answer with Chandler’s alley-oop dunk and J.R. Smith’s pull-up three. It was back to 12 at 111-99, the Lakers holding out hope for a final push that’d certainly be unlikely.
0:00 And unlikely it would be. They’d trim it down to as few as six after Bryant’s runner and an MWP and-1 off his steal on the other end with 1:27 to play, but could not clear a defensive rebound on the next possession, resulting in 20 more seconds off the clock and 1 of 2 Tyson Chandler free throws (8 of 14 total) with 18 seconds left. The final, after another missed Lakers three (they were 12 of 37, the Knicks making as many in 12 fewer attempts), was thus 116-107. Bryant had 31 points, 10 boards and six assists in 44 minutes despite the back spasms, MWP had a season-high 23 points and Howard added 20 points and seven boards in the defeat.
L.A. lost for the fifth time in six games since Pau Gasol went out with knee tendinitis, in advance of the back end of a back-to-back at Washington tomorrow night. We’ll see you there.