LOS ANGELES – It precisely was the type of test the Lakers needed before they embark on a four-game road trip, that includes games against two playoff teams of a year ago.
It pushed the Lakers’ mental fortitude but key plays down the stretch by Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher sparked them to a invigorating come-from-behind victory, in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.
Bryant finished the game with a team-high 28 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and added in six assists. Odom, who started in place of Pau Gasol – who was out with strep throat – had a fine all-around game, with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Fisher made three free throws in the final 6.4 seconds, although his miss with 2.7 seconds, left the door cracked for the Knicks to win it with a 3-pointer. Fortunately, for the Lakers, New York was out of time outs and had to inbound the ball underneath the far basket.
A desperation heave toward the basket came up short.
The victory put a damper on the night of New York’s diminutive guard Nate Robinson, who scorched the Lakers for 33 points off the bench. The Knicks, who had overcome a horrendous 5 of 37 shooting performance from 3-point land in a victory three nights ago at Sacramento, made 13 of 31 from beyond the arc Tuesday.
Under first-year coach Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks’ style is predicated on getting up a shot within six seconds of the 24-second shot clock as often as possible, thereby creating more scoring opportunities and hopefully getting the opponent caught up copying the whirlwind style.
The Lakers had seen this fashion of play numerous times before, during D’Antoni’s previous tenure as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach.
But the Lakers did not seem to be prepared, as the Knicks jumped out to a 15-point halftime lead and the 65 points scored by New York was a Lakers’ opponent high for a half.
But the Lakers outscored New York by 11 points in the third quarter and continued their push in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Knicks by six points.