Knicks 116, Lakers 107By The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:10 PM EST
NEW YORK -- The jokes about Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and his team's woeful defense paused. So did the buzz at Madison Square Garden, where Carmelo Anthony's offensive dominance again stunned a high-profile opponent. All the noise stopped for a moment when Anthony went down with what looked to be an ugly ankle injury midway through the third quarter of the Knicks' 116-107 win over the Lakers on Thursday night. The Knicks later reported Anthony's injury was just a sprained left ankle, though it looked worse when the ankle twisted under the New York forward after Lakers center Dwight Howard fouled him on a drive to the basket. The announcement created a huge sigh of relief for the Knicks, who know their championship hopes could be badly damaged if Anthony were lost for an extended period. So, while the crowd at the Garden remained mostly more subdued the rest of the night without knowing the extent of Anthony's injury, the Knicks were able to savor another impressive win. Anthony scored 30 points before he left, including an eye-popping 22 during the Knicks' 41-point first quarter. Raymond Felton added 19 points and eight assists for the Knicks. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 31 points, but went nearly two quarters without scoring as the Knicks built a 26-point lead at one point. The Lakers (9-14) absorbed another difficult defeat, with former Knicks coach D'Antoni getting humbled in his return to New York. Los Angeles lost its fourth straight and sixth in its last seven games, all while missing injured forward Pau Gasol. Along the way, the Lakers gave up 68 points in the first half, two days after D'Antoni snapped at a reporter for asking if the notoriously offensive-minded coach's team practiced defense before Wednesday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks (17-5) survived without Anthony, after thriving with him. The Lakers closed within seven on an off-balance 3-pointer from Bryant with 4:48 left in the game, the first time they'd been within single digits since late in the first quarter. However, the Knicks answered with five straight points, including a big 3-pointer from J.R. Smith (18 points) to get the lead back to 111-99. The Lakers sliced their deficit to 113-107 after Metta World Peace drove for a layup and a foul with 1:27 left, but the Knicks ran out the clock, hitting three of four free throws from there. As the NBA world tuned into see a battle between Bryant, the league's top scorer, and Anthony, the NBA's second-ranked scorer, the Knicks quickly turned it into a mismatch. Anthony scored the Knicks' first eight points on the way to a 41-27 lead after the first quarter and a 68-49 advantage at the half. Bryant posted 13 points in the first, but he failed to score again until there was 4:06 left in the third. Anthony drove hard to the lane with 6:54 left in the third when Howard intercepted him, knocking him to the ground. After the crowd went quiet, then chanted "M-V-P," Anthony eventually got back up. He stayed in the game to make one of two free throws and hung in for one more possession before heading to the locker room. New York shot an absurd 73.9 percent (17 of 23) from the field in the first quarter. At one point, the Knicks connected on four consecutive 3-pointers. Included in a barrage was Steve Novak pump-faking a defender into the air before calmly stepping up to hit a 3, and Rasheed Wallace following an inside strip by Howard by dribbling back and calmly hitting another long-distance shot. That gave the Knicks a 58-32 lead with 7:21 left in the half. NOTES: Lakers forward Pau Gasol missed his sixth consecutive game with tendinitis in both knees. The Lakers are 1-5 without him. ... D'Antoni told reporters Thursday morning at the Lakers' shootaround that he had "no bitterness" about his time in New York and his comments in an ESPN Los Angeles story last month that he "shouldn't have gone to New York" were in reference to leaving then-Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash. "I shouldn't have left Nash in the sense that he's special as a player," D'Antoni said. "You've got to nurture that. But New York was great for me." ... As Anthony's former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl did, D'Antoni attributed his former forward's well-rounded success this season to the players around him. "The biggest things are the two point guards ... the two veteran point guards," D'Antoni said. "He is doing his thing. He is playing fantastic." Fantastic enough that Bryant told ESPN radio host Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday that Anthony is the toughest player in the NBA for him to guard. ... Former New York Yankees center fielder and current musician Bernie Williams played an instrumental version of the national anthem on his guitar and received a loud ovation. ... Former Knicks center Patrick Ewing was at the game, and he rose to acknowledge the standing ovation he received.
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