Lakers put Knicks away with big fourth
LOS ANGELES (AP)
''I enjoy going against 'Melo, because I always win,'' Bryant said with a grin.
Although Bryant was exaggerating about his head-to-head advantage over Anthony, he's absolutely right about Los Angeles' rivalry with New York over the past half-decade.
Bryant scored 28 points in yet another dynamic performance against the Knicks, and the Lakers relied on stiff defense to roll to their ninth straight victory over New York, 99-82 Thursday night.
Pau Gasol had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Lakers, who have won two straight after a 0-2 start to the compressed season.
The Lakers have dominated this rivalry between the signature teams from the nation's two largest cities in recent years, winning every meeting since February 2007 with Bryant averaging more than 34 points per game in the first eight.
They easily took care of New York down the stretch, opening the fourth quarter with a 17-3 run to take a 22-point lead — and Bryant didn't even need to score, contributing three assists as Los Angeles finished strong.
''We did a great job,'' Bryant said. ''It's tough to hold down an offensive team like the Knicks. We're doing what we're supposed to do.''
Steve Blake scored 11 points and hit two big 3-pointers while the Lakers dominated the fourth quarter, forcing the Knicks to miss nine of their first 10 shots while committing seven turnovers.
Anthony scored 27 points in his first showdown with Bryant since joining the Knicks, and Amare Stoudemire had 15 points on 4-for-17 shooting as New York again struggled down the stretch in the middle stop of a three-game West Coast road trip. For the second straight night, the Knicks showed none of the late-game poise they exhibited in a gritty Christmas win over Boston.
''The Lakers are good, and we're awful,'' New York coach Mike D'Antoni said. ''We didn't play well. We can't make shots. We started off really well. I thought the pace was good, the rhythm was good, and then it just went downhill from there.''
Tyson Chandler had 13 points and 11 rebounds in his hometown for the Knicks, whose nine-game skid against the Lakers is their longest current stretch against any opponent.
''Everything is just difficult for us right now,'' Chandler said. ''We've just got to make things easier than they've been.''
The Knicks' frustration showed in technical fouls for each of their Big Three, who incessantly argued calls despite New York's 41-22 free throw advantage.
''This game is about acting, and right now we're reacting,'' Anthony said. ''We just need to get out there and play ball. ... We're good. Not too much to worry about three games into the season. We will get better.''
Josh McRoberts scored 10 points for the Lakers, who made 23 of their 32 shots before halftime for their highest shooting percentage in one half in nearly 13 years. New York pulled within eight points heading into the fourth quarter, but then committed five turnovers in the next 2 1/2 minutes as reserves Blake and Matt Barnes led the Lakers' runaway.
Although Bryant is playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist that requires a brace whenever he isn't playing, the 13-time All-Star's latest injury is doing little to slow him. He has scored at least 25 points in each of the Lakers' games so far, and he shredded the Knicks' spotty defense.
''Kobe be lying. Kobe ain't hurt,'' Anthony said with a laugh. ''I know him.''
The Lakers were the only team to begin the season with three games in three nights, losing the first two before routing Utah on Tuesday for new coach Mike Brown's first victory. Although the Lakers struggled early, they've been downright dominant on defense in the past three games at home, showing they're already picking up the finer points of Brown's defense-based system.
The Lakers, who held the Knicks to 31.3 percent shooting, will get even better on defense with center Andrew Bynum wrapping up his season-opening four-game suspension for his misbehavior in last spring's playoff finale. He'll be in the lineup for the Denver Nuggets' visit to Staples Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Lakers returned from their first day off with a sharp first half, taking a 16-point lead in the second quarter with crisp offensive execution that frequently left behind the Knicks. Anthony scored 18 points in the half with six field goals - the same number managed by all of his teammates combined.
Bryant scored 13 points in the third quarter, even banking in a long 3-pointer while getting fouled on a four-point play late in the period, but the Knicks trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 80-72 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: The Lakers made 77.1 percent of their shots in the second half against Orlando on March 21, 1999. ... Baron Davis is traveling on the West Coast with the Knicks, but not playing while resting a herniated disc in his back. The veteran guard grew up in Los Angeles. ... Fans near courtside included USC QB Matt Barkley, Angels ace Jered Weaver, Willie McGinest, actress Kaley Cuoco and Richard Lewis, who sat in with the Lakers' radio broadcast team.