Lakers 100, Knicks 90
Los Angeles just had way too much size and strength for the Knicks - and if the Lakers can just hone their finishing skills, they'll be close to the complete team coach Phil Jackson expects.
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points, Gasol added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Lakers exploited a major size advantage in their fourth straight victory, 100-90 over the late-arriving Knicks on Tuesday night.
Bynum added 17 points and eight rebounds on an injured right ankle, although he barely needed to jump while helping Los Angeles to a 60-36 rebounding advantage. When the Knicks struggled from outside, they had little chance to climb over the defending NBA champions.
"We like to use our height to our advantage," Bynum said. "It doesn't do any good if you don't have the right game plan and the right fundamentals, but we had that for the most part, too."
Ron Artest scored 17 points for the Lakers, who took control of their eighth win in 10 meetings with New York by scoring 17 consecutive points in the third quarter while holding the Knicks scoreless for nearly 7 1/2 minutes. Even 6-10 Lamar Odom grabbed 12 rebounds for Los Angeles, though Jackson didn't like his performance with the Lakers' reserves in the fourth quarter.
"It was one of those games that got plodding in the last 6-8 minutes, so it doesn't leave you with a good feeling when you walk out of here," Jackson said.
The Lakers led by 24 in the third quarter before New York's late rally against their reserves trimmed another potential blowout to respectability. Los Angeles also committed 25 turnovers, but the Lakers still haven't really been challenged in three games since Gasol's return from injury.
"It wasn't as good as we would have wanted, but we got a nice win," Gasol said. "We have to do a better job and put in the effort. The intensity level just winds down, and we've got to continue to play hard for 48 minutes."
The entire evening got off to a poor start for the Knicks, whose team bus carrying coach Mike D'Antoni and some players didn't arrive at Staples Center until less than an hour before game time, slowed by Westside traffic from the team's hotel in Santa Monica.
Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler scored 15 points apiece for the Knicks, who opened a three-game West Coast swing with their fifth straight loss to the Lakers. Eddy Curry, the Knicks' own 7-footer, tweaked his knee and didn't play in the second half.
"We were trying to be tough and aggressive on the defensive end and make it tough for them early in the game, but they used their length and were able to get a lot of looks right in front of the basket," said Larry Hughes, who had six points on 3-of-9 shooting. "We took a lot of contested jump shots and didn't score, and it puts pressure on us when we're not getting stops."
Chandler's 5-for-20 shooting performance didn't help, but size was the most obvious offensive problem for the Knicks. Basically unable to get into the paint, the Knicks earned just 12 free throws but also struggled from outside, going 11 for 33 on 3-point attempts.
"We needed to shoot the ball extremely well tonight to have a chance to win, because their defense is predicated on making teams shoot contested jump shots rather getting into the lane," 6-foot-9 center David Lee said. "And when you do get into the lane, they have two 7-footers in there. That's why we needed to shoot well from the 3-point line. We put up 33 of them, and we didn't hit as many as we should have."
Bryant set a Madison Square Garden record with 61 points in the teams' last meeting, but the Lakers needed much less help to beat New York on the other coast for their 10th win in 12 games.
Los Angeles finished the first half on a 15-4 run to take a 10-point lead. The Lakers then turned a 59-52 advantage into a 24-point margin with a relentless series of baskets and defense, with Bryant leading the way on both ends.
Bryant then hit a fallaway 3-pointer and a tough jumper in the final seconds of the quarter, although Robinson made a double-clutch 3-pointer from near midcourt at the buzzer to cut Los Angeles' lead to 21. Robinson had four 3-pointers altogether.
NOTES: D'Antoni said Curry's injury "will probably just be a day-to-day thing." ... Bryant returns to the Garden on Jan. 22. He made 20 free throws without a miss in his 61-point game last February. ... Stevie Wonder, comedians George Lopez and Richard Lewis, and actor Jason Patric attended the game.