The Knicks are relevant again. That seems to be the catchphrase for New York’s storied franchise this season. With Amar’e Stoudemire playing like an MVP, and a revamped supporting cast filling in some cracks, Mike D’Antoni’s finally got a roster that works (well, except for Eddy Curry. Can’t remember the last time he did any “work”). The most prolific scoring team in the league at 108.1 points per game, the Knicks sure know how to put the ball in the hoop…until they run into a couple of seven-footers.
After collecting seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, the Lakers appeared destined to succumb to the Knicks’ running game, which was rewarded with each Laker mistake. But after those seven first quarter mistakes, the Lakers straightened up and turned it over just six more times over the final 36 minutes. By taking better care of the ball and refusing to let the Knicks run off a flurry of fast break points, the home smothered New York with their length instead.
Before he was ejected early in the fourth quarter for questioning a questionable call (which, based on the replay was actually a clean block of Amar’e Stoudemire’s shot), Andrew Bynum exerted himself all over Stoudemire. He was, in short, too big, too skilled and too dominant inside on both ends of the court for the Knicks to contend with. Bynum had 18 points on 8-15, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Every which way the Knicks turned, Bynum was there, tipping in Pau Gasol’s miss, backing into and then shooting over the crowd surrounding the basket, blocking or altering shots, and dunking on their MVP. Bynum is showing little to no effects of his surgery, much to opposing teams’ disappointment for sure.
The Lakers’ other two big men, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, were just as productive as their young center. Gasol, who didn’t have the most efficient shooting night with 5-13, still managed 20 points by going 10-11 from the free throw line. He also had 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals. Lamar Odom, still nursing a sore shoulder, sure didn’t play like it. With 13 points on 4-9, 18 rebounds and four assists, Odom is making his case for the All-Star team, as is teammate Gasol. If they continue to play at this level, voters would do good to take notice.
The Lakers’ strength inside was really too much for New York. They outscored the Knicks 50-30 in points in the paint and 28-9 in second chance points, probably due to their 60-40 rebounding advantage. Bynum, Gasol and Odom combined for 39 rebounds compared to the 42 that the entire Knicks team produced.
Complementing the big men in this game were a pair of Laker guards. Kobe Bryant, going just 10-28, had 27 points, two of which came from a beautiful backdoor lob from Gasol. Bryant also hit back to back threes in the third quarter to pad the Lakers’ lead; a lead that gained steam as the game went on. Shannon Brown, who hasn’t been much of an offensive factor for the team of late, came off the bench for 16 points on 5-8, including a pump-fake, fallaway corner three at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
With Ron Artest having some words with Shawne Williams (which included a grab of Williams’ neck) and then getting hit with a flagrant-1 foul for clotheslining Stoudemire, not to mention Bynum getting ejected, it was a truly spirited game on this Sunday night. Until the Lakers took control a quarter of the way into the final 12 minutes, it was a fun back and forth for both teams. In the end, however, the Lakers’ length dominated over the Knicks’ speed, and just about everything else they threw at the defending champs.
The Laker defense also forced New York into a 36% shooting night, and their stars, Stoudemire and Raymond Felton into a combined 11-38. They also did a good job defending the three, where the Knicks went just 8-25.
All in all, it was a concerted effort on both side of the ball tonight for the home team. Bottle…this…up.
Pre-game Thoughts: Matt Barnes out for a couple of months. Time for some reserves to step up. Lakers vs. Knicks. Length vs. Speed. If the Lakers continue to impose their size on other teams, a win would be more than manageable.
Half-time Thoughts: 47-52 – The difference-maker in this game? Andrew Bynum is all over Amar’e Stoudemire. Bynum’s got 12 points on 6-10 plus seven rebounds and two assists. Stoudemire’s only 1-10. Lakers lead the Knicks in 2nd chance points (17-4), and the Knicks lead the Lakers in fastbreak points (10-2), which is predictable considering each team’s style of play. Lakers need to ease back on their turnovers if they want to dominate this game in any way or the Knicks will surely make them pay. They’ve already committed nine giveaways – too many for one half.
Most Thoughtless Play/Player(s) of the Game: Official Leon Wood, for ejecting Andrew Bynum out of the game. This new technicalapalooza is getting out of control. Technical fouls used to be given out for poor sportsmanship, not for players REACTING. Ridiculous!
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Even though he got ejected, it’s Andrew Bynum, for running over the Knicks defense with his big man game, not mention helping put a cog into the Knicks offense by playing some solid defense.