LOS ANGELES — It was one of the biggest kept secrets in Hollywood. With his Knicks in town, would team president Phil Jackson make an appearance inside Staples Center to see his new team take on his old team for the first time since he accepted in new role in New York’s front office?
It was a question many asked before, during, and after the game.
"Was he here tonight, or no?" Lakers guard Nick Young asked in regards to Jackson following a 20-point performance Tuesday night.
The answer? Yes.
Following reports that he wouldn’t attend the game in order to avoid the subsequent media circus, Jackson discreetly made himself cozy in a suite while, perhaps, uncomfortably watching the dismantling of his Knicks on a history-making night for the Lakers in a 127-96 win.
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Jackson has made a career out of being able to inspire teams. Whether the Lakers knew he was in attendance or not, or inspired, or motivated, they certainly played like it.
As Jackson watched from his suite, which included a visit from former Laker and Knick Metta World Peace, the Lakers erupted for a franchise record 51 points in the third quarter, which is also the most the Knicks have ever given up in a quarter in franchise history.
The Lakers halftime lead, which was eight, skyrocketed all the way up to 30 points at one point in the period. In a quarter that has been so problematic for the Lakers for the majority of the season, it had the feel of something the team had been on the receiving end of so many times prior.
Tuesday night was a different story, however. They were loose and free coming out of the locker room at halftime while scoring almost at will from beyond the arc.
The Lakers connected on 64.3 percent of their 3-point attempts, finishing the night 18 of 28 from beyond the arc.
"Obviously, we hit shots," Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said. "We hit shots all over the place.
"We did get wide open shots, and I don’t think we’re going to shoot 60-something percent from threes every night, but they were the correct shots to take. It’s infectious."
Five players scored in double figures for the Lakers led by Xavier Henry’s 22 points off of the bench despite playing with a torn ligament in his left, shooting wrist. As a team they shot 57.8 percent for the game at the expense of Jackson and his Knicks.
"We know Phil Jackson is a big part of the Lakers," Young said. "He has a lot of history here and for him to come back tonight (is good). I didn’t think he was going to show up."
The Lakers defense showed up as well as they held the opposition under 100 points for the second consecutive game. Although good, it was not superb.
"We gave up 31 (points) in the third but when you score 51 it doesn’t hurt you that much," D’Antoni said.