Bryant leads Lakers over Knicks
LOS ANGELES (AFP) –
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points while Steve Nash and Pau Gasol turned in major performances to spark the Los Angeles Lakers over the New York Knicks 100-94 in an NBA Christmas matchup.
NBA scoring leader Bryant surpassed the 30-point mark for the ninth game in a row as the Lakers stretched their winning streak to five games and improved to 14-14 on the season.
“We held them to 16 points in the fourth quarter and played good defense,” Bryant said. “We did it as a group and we did it in stages. It’s a process. We just tried to get better.”
Canadian point guard Nash, in only his second game back after a leg fracture sidelined him for 24 games, had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, while Dwight Howard added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Spanish forward Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Lakers.
Carmelo Anthony, second on the NBA scoring list, led New York with 34 points, while J.R. Smith added 25 points and Raymond Felton contributed 10 points.
The Knicks had ripped the Lakers 12 days earlier in New York, but that was with Los Angeles lacking Nash and Gasol due to injuries. The Lakers have not lost since.
“Give them credit. They made the plays defensively,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. “The fourth quarter was pretty much in their favor. We had some breakdowns late and they cost us.”
New York fell to 20-8, still best in the Atlantic division and second-best in the Eastern Conference.
Anthony, who went only 4-of-11 from the field in the first half for 10 points, netted 17 points in the third quarter to pull the Knicks ahead 78-71.
But the Lakers scored the last six points of the third period and went on an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter capped by back-to-back Bryant buckets for an 87-82 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Smith missed a tying three-point shot and Gasol followed with a dunk with 12 seconds left to seal the Lakers’ triumph.
“I don’t dunk as often as I used to so it felt good to go to the hole with some explosiveness,” Gasol said.
The Knicks, who have played a record 48 Christmas contests, fell to 22-26 on December 25, while the Knicks improved to 21-18 in such games.