Notebook: Lakers 100, Knicks 94

Posted Dec 25, 2012 7:13 PM

By Dan Arritt, for

THE FACTS: The league's top two scorers, Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, matched each other point for point Tuesday afternoon, both finishing with a team-high 34. Two of the NBA's best defenders, Tyson Chandler of New York and Metta World Peace of L.A, didn't stop harassing the opposition until they both fouled out in the final minutes, and the most maligned player on the Lakers since Mike D'Antoni took over as coach last month, Pau Gasol, produced the biggest basket of the season, putting the final touches on a 100-94 victory at Staples Center

THE STAT: The Lakers have won a season-high five straight games, matching their longest winning streak from last season. They are back to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8, and improved to 2-0 since veteran point guard Steve Nash returned to the lineup after a 24-game absence because of a leg injury.

QUOTABLE: "I don't know if [Nash] is all of it, but he's maybe the last piece that makes it work. There are a lot of pieces that you have to have."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni

TURNING POINT: Gasol missed the second of two free throws with 41 seconds remaining to give the Nuggets a chance to tie the score with a 3-pointer. J.R. Smith, who sank a 3 on the previous trip down the floor to cut the deficit to two, missed from beyond the arc and Jodie Meeks secured the rebound. After burning two timouts, Nash inbounded the ball from under his basket to Gasol at the top of the 3-point line. Gasol, heavily criticized in the past for his soft play around the basket, dribbled into the open lane, rose up and threw down a two-handed dunk with 12 seconds left, securing the best win of the season for the Lakers.

HOT: Anthony and Bryant didn't disappoint in just the third Christmas Day matchup between the league's top two scorers. Anthony shot 13-for-23 from the floor, producing half of his points during the third quarter. Bryant opened up with 13 points in the first quarter and finished 14-for-24 from the field. Bryant, who became the league's all-time leading scorer on Christmas, has scored at least 30 points in nine consecutive games.

NOT: Knicks point guard Raymond Felton came up on the wrong end of his one-on-one matchup with Nash. He shot 5-for-19 and finished with 10 points and six assists, while Nash shot 7-for-12 and produced 16 points and 11 assists. With the Knicks leading by eight points with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, Felton left the game after injuring his right pinkie finger. Felton returned a few minutes later with the finger wrapped, but missed his final four field-goal attempts in the third and three of four in the fourth, opening the door for L.A. to come back and win.

QUOTABLE II: "I thought that at the end of the third quarter, when we had things kind of under control, we didn't finish the quarter. They were able to cut it to one, and then the fourth quarter was pretty much in their favor."
-- Knicks coach Mike Woodson

GOOD MOVE: D'Antoni elected to start the game with Darius Morris guarding Anthony, despite giving up four inches in height. That experiment lasted about two minutes, as Anthony quickly set up in the post and scored five points while drawing two fouls on Morris. World Peace entered the game for Morris and held Anthony scoreless the rest of the quarter, then exploded for 16 of his 20 points in the second quarter. His energy on both ends of the floor excited the crowd and seemed to motivate his teammates.

BAD MOVE: World Peace got a little too aggressive while guarding Smith in the final minute of the first half. After taking a hard bump from Smith that knocked him back a few feet, World Peace slapped at the ball and was whistled for his third foul. World Peace started the second half in place of Morris, but his foul situation caused him to give Anthony more space on the perimeter and Anthony responded by scoring seven points in the first two minutes -- all from outside -- stretching New York's lead to 61-53.

QUOTABLE III: "Some things that stand out are the 16 points they scored in the fourth quarter. I thought the guys turned up the defense and it worked out"
-- Mike D'Antoni

NOTABLE: In order to match up better with Gasol, the Knicks started Kurt Thomas at power forward and moved Anthony to small forward. Thomas scored a team-high six points in the opening quarter but didn't take another shot while playing just six minutes the rest of the game. ... Knicks reserve guard Steve Novak was knocked down by an elbow to the jaw from World Peace while both battled for a rebound with 8:04 in the game. Novak, the team's best 3-point shooter, left the game and did not return. ... The Knicks entered the game leading the league in fewest turnovers at 10.8 a game. They didn't commit their first until World Peace stole ball from Anthony with 7:41 left in first half. New York finished with 10 turnovers.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Wednesday @ Denver, Friday vs. Portland, Tuesday vs. Philadelphia. For the Knicks, Wednesday @ Phoenix, Friday @ Sacramento, Tuesday vs. Portland.