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Gasol burns Knicks for 31 to complement Kobe

Just about every eyeball at Madison Square Garden last night was fixated on the guy wearing No. 24 who dropped in 61. Even Mike D'Antoni's.

"Hey, I can only watch one guy at a time. I can't watch him, too," the Knicks' coach cracked when asked about Pau Gasol's performance in the Lakers' 126-117 win.

"Every time Kobe didn't make a shot, they threw it to him. That's a big guy. It seemed like he had all kinds of blocked shots. He was always at the rim. Pau is a very, very good player."

With Andrew Bynum on the shelf for at least eight weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee, Gasol stepped back into the starting center position - the spot he occupied during the Lakers' run to the NBA Finals last season - and the Lakers' interior play didn't miss a beat.

Gasol powered his way to 31 points and 14 rebounds, serving as Bryant's sidekick yet again and proving the Lakers still can be a formidable team even without Bynum.

"I think with Andrew going down, we lose that low-post presence that he's been giving us so well and so outstanding the last two to three weeks," Gasol said. "Whoever is in the position, we have to step up and make sure we are aggressive and we perform."

Gasol showed why he earned a spot as a reserve for the Western Conference in this month's All-Star Game. He outperformed the Knicks' frontcourt players, torturing the undersized forwards with an array of low-post moves and repeatedly leaking out on fast breaks, almost effortlessly beating them down the court time after time.

Gasol put on a clinic on how to finish strong while taking it hard to the rack, throwing down several monstrous dunks, including one nasty drop-step hammer on rookie Danilo Gallinari that gave the Lakers a 106-94 lead and led to a D'Antoni timeout.

Gasol shot 12-for-17 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line and added five assists and two blocks. He also bothered David Lee all night, forcing the Knicks' double-double man to put up tough and sometimes uncomfortable-looking shots.

The 7-foot, 250-pounder had fans from his native Spain - including one group that had a yellow banner with the words "Go Gasol" on it - hollering with each and every nifty play.

"There's a lot of Spaniards that come over and have a great time and cheer for me," Gasol said. "I remember my first years in the league, I always felt like I was somewhere close to home because there are so many Spaniards here. So it's always special to play in this building on its own. But then when you have some more Spaniards, it's pretty special."

New York Sports