Brandon Knight's career night leads Bucks past injury-ravaged Lakers
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Knight scored 18 of his career-high 37 points in the third quarter, and the team with the NBA's worst record beat the injury-jinxed Lakers 94-79 on Tuesday night.
''My teammates did a great job of running the floor and running the lanes and creating plays for one another, and I think that opened it up for me and a lot of other guys,'' Knight said. ''But it started with our defense. We got after it. Part of that was them missing shots, but I want to give credit to our guys for contesting those shots.''
The Lakers ended the year the same way they began it - with six straight losses. They had never ended a calendar year with more than three consecutive defeats in any of the franchise's 65 previous seasons. Los Angeles will begin the new year 13-19 - the team's first losing record since the 2002-03 season, when they also started out 13-19 following their third straight championship.
The year was a distinctly sobering one for the Lakers, who mourned the passing of flamboyant owner Jerry Buss, longtime executive Bill Sharman and Vern Mikkelsen, who helped the team win four NBA titles in Minneapolis. They also got swept in the first round of the playoffs and had star-crossed Kobe Bryant in the lineup for only six games so far this season.
Adding insult to Bryant's injuries was the end of a 320-game home sellout streak last month.
''I know an historic franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers will be fine,'' said Bucks forward Caron Butler, who spent the 2004-05 season with the Lakers. ''Not having Jerry Buss at the helm anymore is a significant loss, but Jeanie and Jim and the rest of the Buss family know the business of basketball. They know the legacy of their father, and to restore that would be a wonderful feeling.''
Pau Gasol and Nick Young scored 25 points each for the Lakers, who shot 35.8 percent from the field. Young, who led the team in scoring in each of the previous six games as a reserve, made his seventh start of the season.
Gasol, who had missed three straight games and four of the previous six because of a sinus infection and bronchitis, returned to a talent-starved Lakers lineup already missing Bryant, Steve Nash and Steve Blake. Point guard Jordan Farmar played 21 scoreless minutes in his fourth game since returning from a torn hamstring, and sat out the fourth quarter after the hamstring tightened up.
''We are down at the bottom,'' said coach Mike D'Antoni, who used his eighth different starting lineup in as many games and 17th in 32 contests. ''The injuries have torn everybody up, but we have to band together and figure it out. I thought Pau played hard, though he was rusty at first. He didn't look good in the first quarter, but then he picked it up.''
Trailing by 20 points with 9:43 remaining, the Lakers closed to 86-79 with a 26-4 run capped by Kendall Marshall's 3-pointer with 3:21 to play. But the determined Bucks were able to close it out for their second victory in 10 games.
The Lakers were coming off narrow losses to Utah and Philadelphia, who entered Tuesday a combined 19-45 and last in their respective divisions when they faced them.
D'Antoni's undermanned squad was even worse against a Milwaukee lineup that came in 6-24. But the Bucks beat them for the fourth time in five meetings, after winning only five of the previous 30.
The Lakers missed their first 11 shots while the Bucks opened the game with a 14-0 run.
Los Angeles didn't get its first field goal until Gasol hit a 14-footer from the lane with 5:08 left in the first quarter, but Milwaukee extended its margin to 21-4 on Ersan Ilyasova's 19-footer about 2 minutes later.
Luke Ridnour made his fourth start of the season for Milwaukee and scored 11 points in 36 minutes. Frontcourt swingman John Henson missed his second straight game because of a high left ankle sprain that occurred on Dec. 20, and is expected to be sidelined for at least two more contests.
NOTES: The Bucks, who entered the NBA in 1968-69, are 2-6 on New Year's Eve. The only other victory came on the final day of 1969, when they beat the San Diego Rockets 143-126 in regulation with 35 points from future Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. ... The Lakers are 8-4 on New Year's Eve and 4-2 since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. ... Lakers reserve G Xavier Henry was sidelined for the first time this season because of a bone bruise and cartilage abnormality in his right knee, and F Wesley Johnson didn't play because of gastroenteritis.