New York 99, Los Angeles Lakers 94 (F)

NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (AP)-- Even with Kobe Bryant banned from the arena, the New York Knicks knew not to expect an easy game.

The Los Angeles Lakers certainly didn't give them one.

The Knicks held off a late rally Tuesday night, handing the Lakers their season-high third straight loss with a 99-94 victory.

Bryant was suspended one game without pay earlier Tuesday for elbowing San Antonio's Manu Ginobili in the face late in the Lakers' overtime loss to the Spurs on Sunday.

But the Knicks, who last week lost at Miami in a game both Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal missed, knew not to take Los Angeles lightly.

"You're never going to blow them out," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "They're a team with a great coach who understands how to manipulate a game and keep his team close, and they've got good shooters.

"Very rarely do you have blowouts and we didn't think that by no means that we were going to blow them out. But I'm glad Kobe didn't play. I'm really happy he didn't play."

Bryant hoped to play Tuesday, seeking an immediate hearing at the league office during the afternoon since he was already in New York. But that request was denied, since normal NBA policy is for the player to serve his suspension and hope to get his money back later if he wins his appeal.

Bryant and the Lakers were surprised by the penalty, and the fans at Madison Square Garden, where Bryant scored 40 points last season, were bummed themselves. There were mostly boos when Bryant's absence was announced during pregame introductions.

"It happens," Lamar Odom said. "We have to be professionals. Sports, anything can happen. We've seen that with my injury, his injury. We have to play team basketball. We just didn't do a good job tonight."

Eddy Curry had 27 points and nine rebounds and Stephon Marbury scored 22 points for the Knicks, who led most of the game but never pulled away. David Lee grabbed 13 rebounds and Jamal Crawford added 17 points.

Without Bryant's 28.4 points per game, the Lakers shot only 43.5 percent and lost for the fifth time in six games.

"I didn't think about that at all," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant's absence. "We think about the fact that we should have made some plays down the stretch. You know, there's a tumbled ball here, there. We just didn't take care of the ball the right way."

Odom had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Lakers. Vladimir Radmanovic added 18 points and nine boards and Smush Parker scored 14 points.

The Lakers trailed by seven with 1 1/2 minutes remaining, but closed to 96-94 on Radmanovic's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left. Curry made two free throws 10 seconds later, and after Maurice Evans' 3-pointer rattled out, Los Angeles got the ball back after Crawford turned it over.

However, Jared Jeffries blocked Brian Cook's 3-point attempt and New York put it away at the foul line.

It was a rough way for the Lakers to start an eight-game Eastern trip, their longest since playing eight straight on the road from Dec. 9-20, 1989. Bryant will be back Wednesday when Los Angeles visits Boston.

The Lakers were already without Kwame Brown for most of the season and recently lost starting forward Luke Walton to a sprained right ankle.

"Right now we're not facing confrontations that well," Odom said. "I don't know if guys are backing up, or when it gets confrontational we're not making the right decisions or choices."

The Knicks were without starting forward Quentin Richardson, who has a sprained right elbow. Recently demoted Jeffries returned to the lineup and scored 14 points, including a three-point play with 4:17 left to spark a 9-2 run after Los Angeles had pulled within a point.

"It definitely felt good to be out there during a key part of the game," Jeffries said. "As I said so many times lately, I haven't been playing well and I've had no reason to be out there. Coaching staff and me have really been working hard to get everything back so I can play in these kind of situations."

The Lakers shot only 37 percent in the first half and trailed by eight with 3 1/2 minutes left, but scored nine straight points to take a 41-40 lead on Radmanovic's jumper with 25 seconds left. Jeffries hit a 3 with 3.2 seconds remaining to give New York a two-point halftime lead.

The Knicks closed the third quarter with a 13-5 spurt to open a 73-64 advantage on Marbury's 3 as time expired.

Notes: Marbury seemed to aggravate his sore knee in the closing minutes, but said he would play Wednesday at Charlotte. ... Steve Francis was back on the Knicks' bench but remained inactive. He had been away from the team recently, working out in Houston while rehabbing his injured right knee. ... New York native Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's career scoring leader who is now a Lakers assistant working with their big men, received a standing ovation when he was shown on the overhead video board during a first-half timeout.

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