Game Report: Lakers defeat Knicks: 100-94
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By holding the Knicks to just 16 4th-quarter points, the Lakers extended their winning streak to five games, and for the second consecutive game defeated an opponent with one of the NBA’s best records.
Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant led the way, with significant contributions from Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol, whose thunderous two-handed slam with 12 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
With the Lakers up by three, Nash inbounded the ball from under the Knicks basket to a wide open Gasol beyond the three-point line. Pau caught the pass and immediately drove the lane, and with just two dribbles he was airborne – and undeniable.
Kobe Bryant led the team with 34 points on 14 of 24 (58%) shooting, while Nash orchestrated the offence, scoring 16 points on 7 of 12 (58%) shooting, dishing out 11 assists (against only three turnovers), and grabbing six boards.
Dwight Howard recorded a double-double with 14 points (going 6 of 9 from the line) and 12 boards, while Pau Gasol had 13 points (5 of 13 shooting), eight rebounds, and six assists.
Metta World Peace scored 20 points (6 of 11 shooting) and grabbed seven boards, and did a masterful job of containing Carmelo Anthony in the first half. Metta also brought tremendous energy and hustle, and in doing so continued his season-long trend of leading by example.
It was a tight game throughout, with the biggest differential coming in the third quarter, when the Knicks led by nine. The Lakers battled back – as has become their custom of late – and regained the lead with 8:23 remaining. And though the Lakers never pulled away from the Knicks, they never relinquished the lead again, either.
The Lakers recorded 22 assists on their 37 baskets (59%), which is good if not great, and they had only 11 turnovers against their 22 assists. More impressively, though, they seemed to consistently generate good scoring chances during crunch time – a strong indication that this group of talented individuals is beginning to come together as a team.
What the Lakers are in the process of discovering is that with Nash becoming the primary ball handler, team turnovers are likely to stay low – the Lakers had only 11 against the Knicks – although Nash will likely accumulate the bulk of them, given how often he handles the ball. Tonight, though, Nash had only three turnovers against his 11 assists, and he had no turnovers in the second half.
Nash had his second strong game since missing 24 with his leg fracture, shooting in his modestly efficient way and generating an assist-to-turnover ratio of at least 3 to 1. In assuming the primary ball handling responsibilities – and in performing them so efficiently – he also appears to be making the game simpler for his teammates.
Of note tonight was that Nash hit his first two free throws as a Los Angeles Laker – and now needs only to hit his next 11 to overtake (at least temporarily) Mark Price as the NBA’s career leader in free throw percentage.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Although Nash played great, Kobe Bryant gets player of the game, primarily for scoring 34 points on a very efficient 14 of 24 (58%) shooting. The hardest thing to do in basketball is to score, and a player who can score a pant-load of points efficiently deserves player of the game honours. Tonight was the ninth consecutive game in which Bryant has scored at least 30 points.
For good measure, Kobe also led the team in plus-minus at +11, and in minutes played, at nearly 44.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“We may look back on that play as a turning point for the Lakers and Pau Gasol this season.” – @ArashMarkazi, after Gasol’s game clinching slam with 12 seconds remaining
“Another standing ovation for Metta World Peace. Gotta be a career high.” – @Mike_Bresnahan, mid-game tweet, on Metta’s second standing ovation of the game
Wednesday, December 26 at the Denver Nuggets, 6:00 p.m. PST