LOS ANGELES -- Most years this millennium, it would have qualified as an accomplishment for the Knicks:
Giving the mighty Lakers a battle on their home floor and entertaining a huge national TV audience with a shootout that featured 34 points apiece from the NBA's two leading scorers.
But the 2012-13 Knicks are accustomed to winning close games such as this, so when the Lakers emerged with a 100-94 victory at Staples Center on Tuesday, the visitors left with an empty feeling to go with their 20-8 record.
"We just, for whatever reason, didn't make a lot of plays we normally make," center Tyson Chandler said after a rocky afternoon on which he scored only six points and fouled out with 2:22 remaining.
Chandler's departure -- he was replaced by Marcus Camby, who had missed the previous 12 games with a left foot injury -- was but one of several things that went wrong late for the Knicks.
Two of the most notable:
With about a half-minute left and the Knicks down 97-94, J.R. Smith launched a challenging three-pointer with Darius Morris' hand in his face. It missed. Smith had hit more difficult shots earlier, finishing with 25 points and shooting 3-for-8 beyond the arc. But still . . .
"I guess he thought he had a good look," coach Mike Woodson said. "My thing was if you didn't have a good look, put it down and get to the rack and let's get a quick two. But I can live with that. That ball went in and out."
Said Smith: "I felt confident. It just rimmed in and out. I got a good look at it. I just have to make those shots. I can't really ask for anything more . . . Whenever I shoot the ball, I think it's going in."
"I think Jason [Kidd] was trying to set a trap on Kobe [Bryant], and I was trying to switch," Carmelo Anthony said. "It was just a miscommunication."
Said Kidd: "I'm trying to get a steal at that point. I felt if Gasol got the ball, we could maybe get a steal and I just couldn't get it."
But perhaps most vexing of the Knicks' late failures was failing to get more shots for Anthony. He was brilliant in the third (during which the Knicks led by as many as nine points), shooting 7-for-9 and scoring 17 points. In the fourth, he was 2-for-3 for seven points.
"Oh, I'm not too concerned about that," Anthony said. "It was kind of an up-and-down game. For me, getting the ball is neither here nor there."
Said Woodson: "I have to do a better job of getting him the ball, but I think we had good looks from other guys, as well. We just didn't knock them down."
Woodson said he needs to find some of his players more rest during games. Anthony played 43 minutes, Chandler 40 and "sixth man" Smith 37.
The Lakers had five players with more than 10 points, led by Bryant's 34 and 14-for-24 shooting. Metta World Peace had 20 points and seven rebounds and harassed Anthony all night.
Having Nash, unlike when the Knicks beat the Lakers at the Garden earlier this month, made all the difference for Los Angeles (14-14), which has won five in a row. He had 16 points and 11 assists.
Kidd called it a "great" day for the NBA to have Anthony and Bryant duel on Christmas. "It's a lot of fun to watch," he said.
Anthony agreed it was "fun" to a point but added, "He gets the last laugh."