I felt like a kid again, waking up to see presents under the tree left by Santa, only this time it was a 100-94 win by the Lakers over the mighty Knicks (20-8). The Lakers continue their winning streak at 5 and are finally .500 for the season (14-14).
The game would mark yet another milestone for Kobe Bryant as he broke Oscar Robertson’s record for most points scored on Christmas Day adding another 30-point game to his streak with 34 points and 5 boards. Dwight Howard also had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards to go with 2 steals and 2 blocks.
When the two teams met last time, it was a blowout before Carmelo Anthony had to leave the game because of injuries. The Lakers had no Steve Nash, no Pau Gasol and they were just blitzed early on with no answer on defense. It seems the Lakers were pretty nice this year and Santa Claus brought them back their star point guard and forward just in time for the rematch.
Once again, Mike D’Antoni started the game with a small lineup, putting Darius Morris on Carmelo Anthony. Big mistake. It took a quick 5 points by Melo to make Coach D’Antoni realize this and in came Metta World Peace. Although Melo scored 34 points, it was by no means a walk in a park and MWP harassed him defensively the entire game. At the rate Anthony was going, he was poised to drop 50 or more if it wasn’t for World Peace. The Lakers led 25-23 at the end of 1st and it was apparent that this wasn’t the same Lakers team that was destroyed in the 1st quarter last time.
MWP has been the model of consistency lately, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the 2nd quarter to counter the red hot shooting from J.R. Smith in the first half. That’s the thing with the Lakers, you can make a game plan against Kobe and Howard because you know what you’re getting but Metta is just a monkey wrench other teams can’t prepare for.
MWP also provided the intensity on defense, making key plays which seemed to bring the Knicks out of their game both physically and mentally. Together with Howard, they make the Lakers one of the best defensive teams in the league.
At the end of the half, the Lakers led the Knicks 51-49. The Lakers were outscored in the 3rd, as in most games. It became a shooting display by Anthony who scored 17 points in the 3rd quarter alone giving the Knicks an 8-point lead at one point. Thanks to some key baskets by Bryant and Howard, the Lakers kept it close with the Knicks leading 78-77 going in to the 4th.
The 4th quarter was a prime example of how much the Lakers are a different team when Nash and Gasol are out on the floor. Nash would find Bryant and Howard in their sweet spots, collecting 11 dimes to go with his 16 points. Both teams would lose their defensive anchors as both Chandler and Peace fouled out in the closing minutes of the game.
Howard was 6-9 at the free throw line (thank God) and Melo surprisingly missed one at the charity stripe that would have brought the lead down in the waning minutes of the game. The Lakers led by 97-94 with a little over half a minute left in the game, when Nash found a cutting Gasol for the two-handed jam to deliver the dagger.
It was a perfect image to describe the new Lakers. Nash running the offense, and a healthy Pau Gasol rising above all the talk of him being a shell of his former self and throwing it down. The NBA better watch out, because the Los Angeles Lakers are on a roll and they’re just getting started.