Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Christmas Day contest against New York with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Morris, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Knicks: R. Felton, J. Kidd, R. Brewer, C. Anthony, T. Chandler
7:28 The Lakers and Knicks went back and forth in the early minutes, with Steve Nash running L.A.’s offense for four points and two assists (both to Pau Gasol, one being a three-pointer), the game tied at 11 until Gasol’s alley-oop to Dwight Howard and Bryant’s jumper gave L.A. an early 15-11 lead.
0:00 In search of his eighth straight game with at least 30 points, Kobe Bryant had the final five points of the quarter to make it a 25-23 Lakers edge, but it was on the defensive end where things had improved. After starting the game 8 of 13, the Knicks made only 2 of 13 shots to close the quarter at 38.5 percent from the field, including Carmelo Anthony’s 2 of 7. The matchups in this one were certainly intriguing, with Gasol at times defending Ronnie Brewer, Morris starting on Anthony (until Metta World Peace came in early), Jordan Hill in early to spell Howard as Tyson Chandler played all 12 minutes.
4:52 For as dominant a scorer Anthony has been this season, second only to Kobe with his 28.3 points per game, nobody could have defended him any better than how World Peace was in this one, serving as a sort of Christmas wrapping paper. With Anthony making only 2 of his 8 field goals plus two turnovers when being guarded by MWP, L.A.’s defensive stopper was also working on the other end, scoring 13 points on 3 of 4 field goals, with two triples and 5 of 6 free throws.
1:40 The last two of MWP’s free throws tied the game at 46, though Raymond Felton countered with a layup around Nash and under Howard. And if you’re sensing a theme from the second quarter, World Peace was there for all yet again, draining his third three-pointer to reach 16 points, and help L.A. hold a 51-49 lead at the half. Bryant took only one shot in the second (a make), able to conserve plenty of energy and activity as MWP took things over.
9:53 The Knicks opened the second half with a parade of long, swished jump shots, all five attempts going down to cap a 12-2 run that put the Lakers in a 61-53 hole. Anthony hit from 27, 22 and 20 feet, while Kidd added his second three and Felton hit a floater, the lone bucket in the paint. Time out, Lakers.
4:10 Despite Anthony staying hot, and his buddy J.R. Smith not far behind (20 bench points on 8 of 13 shooting), the Lakers hung around with two Nash free throws, a Kobe three and MWP driving lay up. Howard continued to struggle, not being hugely involved on either end.
0:00 The Lakers scored the final six points of the third, capped by an and-1 layup from Bryant (26 points), though he missed both the and-1 free throw plus a technical free throw (called on Chandler). With that, the Knicks held a 78-77 lead into the fourth. Compared to where L.A. has been in its previous two games – down seven against Charlotte, down 13 at Golden State – this would be a piece of cake! (Stay tuned).
4:33 L.A. was really executing well on offense, getting a variety of open looks, while holding the Knicks primarily to jump shots. Nash was of course orchestrating all of it, and one of his 10 assists got Gasol an easy look at a J, which he hit to put the Lakers up 91-86. They’d erased that deficit, and continued to hold on in the next few minutes, with Nash and Howard finally working as a screen/roll tandem with Howard drawing fouls and hitting three of four clutch free throws.
0:41.4 Gasol missed 1 of 2 free throws as L.A. held onto a 3-point lead despite a triple from Smith, but he more than atoned for the miss with a furious two-handed slam through traffic, putting the Lakers up 99-94 with 12 seconds left. Jodie Meeks had come up with a key defensive board on the previous Knicks possession, and then added 1 of 2 free throws to make the final tally 100-94 for the home team. That’s five straight wins, with a tough back-to-back at Denver to follow tomorrow. We’ll see you there.