Knicks Beat Up On Lakers Early, Withstand Late Lakers Run in MSG

The Lakers visited New York for the first time of the season on Thursday night, and it would be their only visit to Madison Square Garden during the regular season. They found themselves up against the surprisingly upstart New York Knicks, who were 16-5 entering the game. L.A., on the other hand, has been in a season-long slump and were looking to end a three-game losing streak.

After the team fell to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, they had their hands full on Thursday. It was also Mike D’Antoni’s first game against the team he coached a season ago. New Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who took over for D’Antoni upon his resignation, has the Knicks playing exceptional basketball, and they’re sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference. In order for the Lakers to get the win and end the losing streak, they would have to do it without Steve Nash or Pau Gasol, both of whom were still out with injuries. Oh, and the Knicks were undefeated at home (8-0) headed into the game.

First Quarter

The game started with a bang as both teams were red hot from the field. New York struck first with a Carmelo Anthony three-pointer, and it didn’t stop the rest of the quarter. Anthony was unconscious early, making his first five field goal attempts, including three from three-point range. But, always a fan of the big stage, Kobe Bryant wasn’t about to let Melo steal the spotlight. Bryant also got things going early on the offensive end, scoring eight early points in the first five minutes of the quarter.

Both teams were shooting well early, and it had the Madison Square Garden crowd abuzz. New York, who has been one of the best shooting teams so far this season, lived up to their reputation in the first period.

From there things got ugly for the Lakers. Their defense was all sorts of dreadful, and the Knicks ran them out of the building in the second half of the quarter. Open jumpers and uncontested layups allowed New York to put up their highest scoring quarter of the season, and head into the second period with a 41-27 lead.

Second Quarter

Things didn’t get much better for the Lakers in the second quarter. A lack of offensive rotation led to poor defense on the other end and things simply looked pitiful for Los Angeles. Many of the problems we’ve seen so far this season that have plagued the Lakers (turnovers, fastbreak points, etc.) once again allowed the Knicks to get ahead of the Lakers early, and essentially never look back.

The first half there were not many bright spots for the Lakers, especially on the offensive end. Other than 16 points from Howard and 13 from Bryant, no other Laker made much of an impact on that end. And even Bryant’s 13 points came on 4-11 shooting. But the bigger problem was defense, as the Lakers gave up nearly 70 points in the first half. At the break the Knicks were blowing out Los Angeles 68-49.

Third Quarter

The Lakers never made things close in the third quarter, and other than a hard fall by Carmelo Anthony there wasn’t much of anything that can be considered noteworthy. Instead of writing two hundred more words on how depressing it is to watch the Lakers, I’ll just fill in some tweets and hope I don’t ruin my computer with my tears.

Anyways, at the end of the third quarter the game was still a blowout, with the Knicks leading the Lakers 93-80.

Fourth Quarter

Even though the Lakers never made a run in the third quarter, they did finally show some life in the fourth. About midway through the period they were able to get the game within a manageable distance, mainly due to the play of Howard and Kobe. Those two players were the backbones for the team offensively, and allowed Los Angeles to pull within 10 points with just over six minutes left in the fourth.

They also got some help from Metta World Peace, who was their third highest scorer on the night.

One of the reasons L.A. was able to get back into the game was the absence of Carmelo Anthony, who sat out the final quarter after injuring his ankle in the third quarter. It was evident that the Knicks missed him on the offensive end, which was one of the reasons the Lakers were able to crawl back into the game.

Kobe hit a fadeaway three-pointer from the corner to bring Los Angeles within seven, but that’s as close as it was going to get. The next two times down the floor New York got a dunk from Tyson Chandler and a three-pointer from JR Smith to seal the deal. L.A. was able to make it somewhat interesting at the end, but ultimately they fell short once again.

The theme to this Lakers season seems to be – fall behind big early, climb back late, lose in the end. It was a trend they followed again on Thursday night, and resulted in a 116-107 loss.

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