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Knicks wary of Kobe, Lakers' big guys

Kobe Bryant is joined by a talented Lakers

Kobe Bryant is joined by a talented Lakers frontcourt that includes Ron Artest, right. (January 13, 2010) Photo Credit: MCT

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Kobe Bryant makes his first Madison Square Garden appearance Friday night since scoring 61 there last February. But that's not what has Mike D'Antoni and David Lee worried.

The Knicks' coach and best player figure Kobe is going to get his - though they'd like it to be closer to his average, which was 28.3 before last night's game against LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

No, what they're concerned with is the Lakers' impressive array of frontcourt talent. Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are big and athletic and provide matchup problems for the Knicks.

"It's not only the fact that they have the best player in the game," Lee said Thursday after practice. "They're deep at every position. When they have Odom at the three, they are the longest team I think that's ever been put together. They play defense and they work together as a team. They're unselfish.

"I think they're the best team in the league right now. They're a tough matchup for us, having as many bigs as they do. We're going to have to play our best, and if we play our best, we still might not win."

Bryant was at his best last Feb. 2, shooting 19-for-31 from the field and 20-for-20 from the line in a 126-117 Lakers victory. Bryant loves to play in New York and could try to top 61, the record at the current Garden.

Bryant scored 34 in a 100-90 win over the Knicks in Los Angeles on Nov. 24.

"He's great," D'Antoni said. "He's unbelievably competitive. I'm sure [Friday], being in the Garden, his lights come on. We'll have to deal with it."

How will they? D'Antoni said they will try to use different players and looks against Bryant, with Wilson Chandler and Jared Jeffries getting the first cracks. Larry Hughes could be a factor, but he played in only one of the Knicks' last nine games.

"You kind of go a little bit by feel," D'Antoni said. "We'll pick our spots. You don't want everybody else to go off because he will normally get his 30 to 50 points no matter what. Even if we double him. Then you don't want him to be a facilitator.

"I couldn't tell you if we will double him every time or not. There are going to be certain parts of the game you're going to want to get the ball out of his hands, that's for sure."

Notes & quotes: Lee wore a sleeve on his right knee in practice after sitting out Wednesday. "It feels better today," he said.

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