Lakers Fall On Last-Second Game-Winner

With a steaming Carmelo Anthony having just knocked down three clutch shots in the final three minutes, Kobe Bryant ensured that New York’s star wasn’t going to be the one to hit the game’s deciding shot in the final seconds.

“As soon as they lined up, I said (to Anthony), ‘Look you’re not going to touch the ball,’” Bryant said. “‘I’ve hit like 10 game-winners in this particular lineup. I know where you’re going. You don’t have a chance of getting it. Somebody else is going to have to make it.”

Indeed, with Bryant draped all over Anthony, the Knicks were unable to inbound the ball to their nine-time All-Star, and instead sent it to Robin Lopez, who nearly committed a backcourt violation. Instead, he handed it to Jose Calderon, who took over from there.

Calderon — despite having just six points at the time — drove right and got his defender, Marcelo Huertas, to overplay the dribble. That gave the Spaniard enough space to rise up and drain the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left.

“(In) the last second, everything just kind of happened and (earlier) I wasn’t making shots,” Calderon said. “Tonight — even the night before — sometimes that happens when you’re struggling a little bit and you make the important one.”

Judging by the Lakers’ first-quarter performance, it was surprising that the game even came down to the final shot.

Los Angeles (14-53) scored just 11 points in the opening period, shooting 3-of-19 from the field. That offensive stagnation lasted for most of the game.

“Execution-wise, I thought we just went back to our old ways of dribbling, dribbling, dribbling around,” yea coach Byron Scott said. “It wasn’t great at all.”

Despite leading by as many as 16 points, the Knicks (28-40) were unable to bury their hosts, although the Lakers shot just 40.0 percent, including 3-of-16 from 3-point range.

L.A. eventually whittled New York’s advantage down to 76-74 with five minutes remaining, then stole the lead with seven unanswered points capped by a Bryant turnaround jumper.

From there, it was a back-and-forth affair, as Anthony — who scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter — responded with a 3-pointer.

Lou Williams and Lopez then traded baskets before Bryant — who shot just 5-of-15 for 14 points — sunk a baseline fadeaway for an 85-81 lead with 1:32 left.

But Anthony was simply too hot, knocking down another triple, then a 21-footer from inside the arc to give his team the lead once more.

Williams — who led the Lakers with 15 points and five assists in his first game back from a five-game injury stead — answered with jumper, but Lopez drew a foul and went 1-of-2 at the free throw line to tie the game at 87.

From there, the scene was lit for Calderon to cancel the impending overtime and hit his crucial 3-pointer.

While Calderon was clutch when needed, Anthony served as New York’s engine, as he collected a game-high 12 rebounds in addition to his scoring outburst.

The young Lakers who were sent to guard Anthony testified to his unique strength and speed, as Julius Randle called him a “bull,” while Larry Nance Jr. preferred the term “blur.”

For Anthony himself, he was fueled by the thought of playing against his United States Olympic teammate, Bryant, for the final time.

“I wanted this,” Anthony said. “The going back and forth just made it that much better of a game. I”m pretty sure we gave the fans what they paid to see out there tonight.”

The Lakers’ young core of Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell combined for only 23 points on 9-of-30 shooting. … The Knicks were without fourth-overall pick Kristaps Porzingis (stomach illness). … Williams scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. … An audience of 18,997 sold out Staples Center for Bryant and Anthony’s final meeting.

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