Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant were the brightest stars Christmas afternoon in Los Angeles, but it was the two guys that were missing the last time the Knicks and Lakers played who made a difference.
Steve Nash’s brilliance at point guard and Pau Gasol’s big plays late helped lift the Lakers over the Knicks, 100-94.
You knew once Nash came back from his left injury he would have an impact and Gasol is too good of a player not to figure out how he can fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system. This is what you expected from them, expected from the Lakers this season.
But the Knicks didn’t necessarily play up their expectations, Anthony excluded.
This was a team that came in 20-7 and led the Lakers by 26 points two weeks ago when they met in the Garden. But the Lakers are a different team and the Knicks are somewhat different too.
They’ve become too reliant upon Anthony lately. They don’t win the lazy game Sunday against Minnesota – without Kevin Love – without Anthony scoring 19 fourth-quarter points. They’ve now lost three-of-five for just the second time this season.
Anthony scored 34 points, on 13-of-23 shooting, and put a scare into everyone affiliated with the Knicks when he came up hobbling after Marcus Camby fell into his left leg.
Anthony soldiered on and finished the game, but he had to do too much. Anthony needed help, and his teammates didn’t give him much, especially late.
Anthony’s last field goal with was 6:39 remaining. He only took one official shot after that. The Knicks made three field goals the last six-plus minutes of the game.
“I have to do a better job of getting him the ball but I think we had good looks from other guys as well,” Mike Woodson said. “We just didn’t knock them down.”
J.R. Smith started fast, hitting six of his first nine shots. But he was 4-for-14 the rest of the way, and missed a game-tying three with 32.9 seconds left.
Raymond Felton continues to struggle with his shooting. It could be the fact that both hands are bothering him, and he banged his right hand and hurt his pinkie against the Lakers. But Felton doesn’t stop playing or stop shooting.
He attempted 19 shots and made just five. By contrast, Nash was 7-for-12 with 16 points and 11 assists. But it’s unfair to compare most point guard to Nash. They’re almost always going to come up short.
Felton has to find other ways of helping the Knicks when his shot isn’t falling and it hasn’t for the past 10 games. His defense has slipped, but that’s true for the Knicks as a whole.
Anthony, Smith and Felton were the only Knicks to score in double figures against the Lakers. The other seven Knicks who scored combined to shoot 10-for-24 and score 25 points.
“I think tonight they were just a little more aggressive,” Anthony said. “Kobe got it going, Steve Nash. When you have a guy like Steve Nash who can make shots down the stretch, it’s kind of tough.”