Kobe saves best for last at MSG

BY foxsports • January 23, 2010

Those dazzling scoring shows Kobe Bryant often puts on at Madison Square Garden were nowhere to be found - until the end.

He had other priorities for most of the game.

Bryant scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Lakers pull away to beat the New York Knicks 115-105 on Friday night.

Pau Gasol added 20 points, half in the final period, and Andrew Bynum finished with 19 for the Lakers, who bounced back from a disappointing loss in Cleveland to even their record after two games of their eight-game road trip.

It was far short of Bryant's last trip here, when his 61 points gave him the arena record, but he came through when the Lakers needed him.

Bryant said there was no temptation to go for a big night, since he was more interested in seeing other Lakers play well.

"I don't think the way that we're playing, we're ready for that type of situation,'' he said. "Guys have got to get going. Pau's got to get going, Andrew's got to get going. Other players have got to find the rhythm because I need them on this trip.''

David Lee scored a season-high 31 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Wilson Chandler added a season-best 28 points and Danilo Gallinari had 20 for the Knicks.

"I thought we played really, really, really well and then we lost the rhythm a little bit. You got to give them credit. They were hitting shots,'' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I thought we played them pretty good. Kobe and Gasol at the end of the game, a little bit too much.''

In a game that was tight most of the way, Los Angeles led by only two four minutes into the fourth quarter. Lamar Odom scored before Gasol, who had a disappointing performance in Thursday's 93-87 loss to the Cavaliers, followed with consecutive baskets for a 99-91 lead.

Gasol struggled down the stretch Thursday, getting stopped twice from close range on one late possession and missing two costly free throws that would have tied it in the final minute. He was relieved to bounce back Friday.

"I couldn't find much going on during the first three quarters, especially in that third quarter,'' Gasol said. "I just couldn't find anything, but I finally got going in the fourth and finished off the game well so ... move on from the mess that happened yesterday.''

Lee made a jumper before Bryant knocked two free throws and a 3-pointer to make it 104-93 with 4 1/2 minutes to play. Bryant added four more points in the last 2:25, refusing to let the Knicks get the lead much under double digits.

"They came with intensity in the last quarter and we didn't match their intensity and they won,'' Gallinari said. "They were playing more aggressive and they were doing the right thing in offense, taking the right time and going in to Pau and out to Kobe. They were playing real good.''

Bryant came in averaging 30.5 points in his previous 11 visits to MSG, according to STATS, LLC. He has five 40-point games in New York but was never close to that in this one, scoring only 14 points on 14 shots through three quarters. He finished only 8 of 24 from the field.

But the Lakers had too many other advantages inside and beat the Knicks for the sixth straight time.

Bryant said the Lakers had to get tougher after Thursday's loss to the Eastern Conference leaders, but it's tough to gauge much against the Knicks, who are too small to deal with the Lakers' bigs. A truer test won't come until later in the trip, when they visit Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics next Sunday.

On the fourth anniversary of his 81-point game, Bryant took only four shots in the first quarter, when the Lakers opted to go inside and rely on their size advantage. Bynum scored 11 points in the period, and Los Angeles shot 65 percent in taking a 36-30 lead.

The teams kept up the fast pace in the second, when there were nine ties and seven lead changes. Gallinari and Ron Artest each hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:24 to send the game to halftime in a 63-all tie.

Chandler scored 12 points in the third quarter before Larry Hughes, getting rare playing time because Nate Robinson missed the second half with a strained right hamstring, blocked Bryant's shot with 1.9 seconds remaining in the period as New York took an 85-84 edge to the fourth.

NOTES: The Knicks announced they will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1969-70 championship team during halftime of their game against Milwaukee on Feb. 22. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was on that team, which included Hall of Famers Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere and coach Red Holzman. ... Gasol was one of 10 NBA players donating $1,000 for every point he scored to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Former President Bill Clinton was at the game to announce the program during an ESPN interview. ... Running back Thomas Jones and tight end Dustin Keller were among five New York Jets who attended the game before the team travels to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Sunday in the AFC championship game.

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