Bryant sets Christmas mark as Lakers win fifth straightBy Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Tue, Dec 25, 2012 7:50 PM EST
LOS ANGELES -- Oscar Robertson, move over. Christmas has a new king. Kobe Bryant scored 34 points to become the NBA's career Christmas Day scoring leader, and he lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to their fifth straight win, a 100-94 victory over the New York Knicks at Staples Center. Los Angeles trailed 80-79 with nine minutes to play before Bryant sparked an 8-0 run, scoring six points, and the Lakers never trailed again. The Lakers held New York to 16 fourth-quarter points, limiting the Knicks to 6-of-16 shooting and forcing them into five turnovers in the final frame. "We played great team basketball tonight," Lakers center Dwight Howard said. "Defense was pretty good. Pick-and-roll defense -- they didn't get the lobs that they got last game. ... It's getting better. Stay together, stay focused, keep going hard in practice every single day -- that's been working for us." In a matchup of the NBA's top two scorers, No. 1 Bryant against No. 2 Carmelo Anthony, both scored 34 points. However, the Lakers had three other starters score in double figures, while the Knicks had just one, Raymond Felton, who finished with 10 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Bryant topped the 30-point mark for the ninth consecutive game. He hit 14 of 24 shots from the field, including 6-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, when he had 13 points. He finished the game with 383 points on Christmas Day, pushing him past Robertson, who finished his career with 377. "I think it's great for the NBA," Knicks guard Jason Kidd said. "I think it's great for the game (to have a) Christmas Day game when you have the top two scorers going at it and they both compete at a high level and both want to win. It's a lot of fun to watch." Los Angeles held the Knicks to 42.7 percent shooting, and New York hurt its cause with 9-of-16 free-throw shooting. Anthony shot 13-for-23, but the Knicks' other four starters combined to go 13-for-34 while compiling just 28 points. J.R. Smith added 25 points off the bench for New York, but he had a plus/minus rating of minus-18. The rest of the Knicks' reserves added just seven points. "(Anthony) has been consistent for us all season; we just didn't get it from our other guys tonight in terms of making plays down the stretch," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "The defense was pretty solid, I thought, for most of the game, but we had some key breakdowns when it really counted, and that cost us the game." The Lakers were similarly lopsided, as Metta World Peace accounted for 20 of the team's 23 bench points. The Lakers turned to World Peace in the second quarter, and he had 16 of his 20 points in that period, including three 3-pointers. "I want to say his play is inspired, but this is what he's been doing the whole year," said point guard Steve Nash, who recently returned from a six-week absence caused by a fractured left leg. "He pounds on the best player on the other team and gets his hands on a lot of balls, rebounds, scores, makes 3s. He's playing phenomenal. He's a great teammate, and he's a huge part of why we were able to win the last five games." With Nash back in the lineup for just a second game after his long layoff, Los Angeles was able to rely on its starters. Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in nearly 38 minutes. Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The Lakers went big for most of the game, with World Peace playing 39 minutes, and they used their bulk to deal New York (20-8) its third loss in five games. The result was a reversal of the team's first matchup, the Lakers' last loss, when New York took a 116-107 win at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13. The Lakers (14-14) moved back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 30. With a win against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Los Angeles would be above .500 for just the second time this season. "The last five games we have done a good job of moving the ball and playing together," Bryant said. "We were kind of lethargic at the start, everyone's legs were kind of heavy, but we try tried to play through it and loosened up as the game went on." NOTES: The game pitted the two teams that have played the most on Christmas Day, with the Knicks making their 47th Christmas appearance and the Lakers their 38th. ... Bryant ranks second all time in Christmas Day assists with 81, fourth in steals and second in 3-pointers made. Bryant is not the only Laker with lofty Dec. 25 stats: Nash ranks 13th in assists per game on Christmas, and Howard ranks third in blocks, third in blocks per game and 10th in rebounds per game. ... The teams split the season series in 2011-12, but Los Angeles is 8-2 against New York in the teams' past 10 meetings.
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