LOS ANGELES -- There really is a constant in this rushed, haphazard start to the NBA season. Kobe Bryant still can take control of the game better than anyone, at least when it is a game against the Knicks.
The Lakers superstar had his typical major game against the Knicks, whose new Big Three was not enough to offset his presence, his energy, his 28 points and his four-point play in the Lakers' 99-82 win at Staples Center.
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No one knows what to expect in this early season, which started without much preparation and sent teams scrambling into a frenzied schedule. But they can expect plenty from Bryant, who had been questionable for his team's four games in the first five nights because of a torn ligament in his right wrist.
The Knicks had no one to step up in crunch time, not even Carmelo Anthony, who had 27 points. They didn't make a field goal for the first 6:08 of the fourth quarter, by which time they were down 87-73, and they finished with 10 points in the quarter.
Said Anthony, "The game is about acting and reacting. Right now, it seems like we're reacting. There's not too much to worry about. It's three games into the season. We will get better."
Worse yet for the Knicks, Amar'e Stoudemire (15 points, 4-for-17 shooting) went down heavily on the offensive end of the floor after a collision in the fourth quarter and got up slowly. He suffered a sprained left ankle, did not play the final minutes and is day-to-day, he said.
The Knicks have totaled 24 points in their last two fourth quarters and continue to search for offense. In other words, they had nothing like the long-range three-point bank shot that Bryant made in the third quarter, drawing a foul from Renaldo Blackman in the process.
"The Lakers are good and we're awful,'' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We didn't play well, we didn't make shots. We started off really well, I thought that the pace was good, the rhythm was good, and then it just went downhill from there.
"We'll turn it around. The guys will keep working hard, they'll work through it. It's early and we've got some things to work out. We've got some guys hurt, we'll get them back and then we'll get through it.
"Before the game [against] Boston, I thought that our offense was bad, and then it came through and I said, 'OK.' It was a little bit of fool's gold. We're not moving the ball and we're not playing real well as a team right now.''
An NBA observer can't help but notice that the level of play in the post-lockout NBA has been spotty and very unpredictable. Bryant said before the game, "It seems up and down. You see teams come out and play well one night, and the next . . . It seems pretty inconsistent."
A touch of inconsistency was exactly what the Knicks were aiming for in this game. They entered with an eight-game losing streak against the Lakers. And Bryant's history of playing well against the Knicks, on either coast, was way too much consistency for the Knicks' taste.
"It has a lot to do with Mike D'Antoni being in New York," Bryant said, with just the trace of a grin. "I want to stick it to him every chance I get."
Of course he was kidding. Bryant grew up idolizing D'Antoni in Italy when the Knicks' coach and Bryant's father were playing there. Bryant first wore No. 8 (before switching to his current 24) because that was what D'Antoni wore.
The thing is, even in his best days in Europe, D'Antoni never was nearly the player Bryant has become. What has made Bryant that kind of star, arguably the best in the world, and kept him that way is a consistency of effort. At least that is the way D'Antoni sees it.
"He's amazing," he said before the game. "Just the way he works -- I don't think there's another player in the NBA can match what he puts in."