The pieces of the puzzle which have been the Lakers’ confounding season so far are starting to fall into place.
Kobe Bryant engineered a 2nd-half comeback, the defense stepped up, and L.A beat the New York Knicks 100-94, extending its winning run to 5 games. ”We’re .500,” a smiling Dwight Howard claimed. ”We did it on Christmas, too. I knew this day would come.”
Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and 7 rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the N.Y Knicks. Anthony claimed he hyperextended his left knee.
Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in 9 straight games.
The Lakers improved to 14-14 – 9-9 under new coach Mike D’Antoni – and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home. They returned to .500 for the 1st time since they were 8-8 on November 30.
”It’s so early in the season to have turned a corner,” Bryant expounded. ”We have everybody in the lineup and we are starting to see how we want to play.”
The New York Knicks controlled the most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the 4th, when Anthony was limited to 7 points and Smith had 5 as the Lakers’ defense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lakers ahead by 4.
World Peace credited his defense on Anthony to ”old-school basketball.”
”I’m back in shape and it’s kind of difficult to guard me,” he announced.
Steve Nash said: ”This is what he has been doing all year. He gets his hands on a large amount of balls, pounds on the other team’s best guy. You cannot win without that type of effort.”
Smith’s 3-pointer pulled N.Y to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of 2 free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.
”We missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of little chippers around the basket, shots that we normally make,” Anthony said. ”There were some plays that we believed should have gone our way down the stretch, but mostly, we fought. I may take this effort any night. If we continue to play with this effort, we’ll win lots of games.”
With Bryant double-teamed, Nash passed to Gasol, who dunked with 12 seconds left, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team’s struggles and coaching change, home happy. The Lakers revenged a 116-107 loss in New York on December 13. NFL lines
Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in his 2nd game in almost 2 months. He missed 24 games in sequence while getting over a small fracture in his lower left leg. Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and 8 rebounds.
”It was an important win for us as we were a bit desperate,” Nash said. ”We’ve gone through a lot since Mike Brown – new coach, new offense. It has been a tricky transition.”