LOS ANGELES - The streak of competitive quarters - yes, it has reached that point - ended Tuesday night at 11.
The 12th quarter started out well and even included a Knicks lead. But those have been as fleeting as good shooting nights this season and the more they clanked Tuesday night, the more they sank in a 100-90 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 34 points - a little more than half of what he had the last time he played them in that record-breaking 61-point performance Feb. 2 at the Garden - and Pau Gasol had 11 points and 16 rebounds for the defending champion Lakers (11-3).
Eddy Curry's comeback is clearly hitting the game-conditioning wall, which is to be expected. He played just 5:54 in the first half and had two points without a rebound, two fouls and three turnovers. Despite extensive garbage time in the fourth quarter, Curry did not re-enter the game because of a sore left knee. He missed the opportunity to bang with Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17 points) and get some valuable game time.
Curry was among five veteran players, and D'Antoni, who arrived less than an hour before game time because of heavy traffic. Curry, who played in his fourth game, chose to take the second bus from the team's Santa Monica hotel, which left at 5 p.m. and didn't arrive at the arena until 6:43 p.m. The Knicks did not have a morning shootaround, so Curry - along with Chris Duhon, Larry Hughes, Al Harrington and Darko Milicic - did not get any time to go through his usual pregame warm-up routine.
With former mortal enemies from an era long, long ago, Spike Lee (perhaps the Knicks' biggest star these days) and Reggie Miller, seated next to each other courtside - just a few seats from Alex Rodriguez - the Knicks briefly held a 41-40 lead after a pair of free throws by Chandler with 3:26 left in the second quarter.
But that was before the Lakers ripped off a 15-4 run to end the half with a 55-45 lead. The contributing artists included familiar names such as Kobe, Pau and Ron Artest.
The deficit quickly reached 20 (and more) in the third quarter as the Knicks' offense was flat, like the many jumpers they took. A 17-0 run, capped by a Bryant layup, turned it into a 76-52 Lakers lead with 3:10 left in the quarter.
It was at this point that D'Antoni decided to give the rookies some Showtime on the L.A. stage. Rookie Toney Douglas, who didn't see the floor in the first half, checked in and immediately was assigned to check Bryant. Jordan Hill also entered the game and blocked a Lamar Odom layup.
The young players at least made it less of a blowout. Douglas finished with 12 points and a plus-8 and Hill had seven and plus-12 as both were the only plus players on the team.