On the heels of three consecutive road victories, the Los Angeles Lakers entered Madison Square Garden looking to continue its winning ways on the tough end of a back-to-back against a team desperate to right its own ship. After a fast start out of the gate by Kobe Bryant, it was clear that the Lakers, led by their superstar, were going to leave New York with another impressive road win. Here is a look at the game by the numbers…
19 – The number of points scored by Kobe Bryant in the first quarter on Friday night.
Black Mamba started the game off with two turnovers on plays where he tried to set up his teammates. That, coupled with the Knicks’ fast start (they led 11 to 3 after four minutes of play), inspired Kobe to take over before things got any more out of hand. And that he did.
Bryant hit three consecutive 3-pointers and several long jumpers over different defenders, including a 19-foot jumper at the buzzer, to salvage a 30-28 first quarter lead for his squad. After each bucket, the fans at MSG–to no surprise–went crazy, showing their appreciation for his talent. The quick 19 points led many viewers to believe he was headed toward another huge night. But after a prolonged rest to start the second quarter, and after the Lakers defense suffocated the Knicks offense to build a comfortable lead, it was clear Kobe was going to coast the rest of the way.
10 – The number of rebounds by Kobe.
17 – The number of shots taken by Kobe.
Perhaps more impressive than Kobe’s 19 first-quarter points and 33 total points were his performance on the glass and his offensive efficiency. Kobe led the team in rebounds, and he proved again that he is committed to affecting the game in other ways besides scoring.
As for efficiency, I thought his shot selection was very solid. In the first quarter, he was clearly on fire, so most shots at that point would have been good shots. What pleased me about last night was that he kept the shots under twenty (nearly 1.5 points per shot attempt) and that he hit shots beyond the arc (4-of-7), thereby stretching his game and the defense.
Amare Stoudemire: 24 pts (9-20 FG), 10 reb, 6 turnovers
Look at Amare’s line from Friday night. Not only did he score below his season average of 26.2 points per game, but he did so very inefficiently; he only scored 1.2 points per shot attempt and shot less than 50% from the field, both poor marks. Furthermore, he turned the ball over six times, which was the most committed by any player on either team last night and one-third of the Knicks’ team total.
But why did Amare have such a bad game? Based on my observations, it was mainly caused by the Lakers’ length down low, which again proves my point that the Lakers cannot trade Bynum. The Lakers threw both Bynum and Pau at Stoudemire last night, and both guys, but mainly Bynum, forced Amare to take tough shots. Bynum has very good footwork for a guy his size, and he was able to stay with Amare and make Amare change the trajectory of his attempts. You really had to have watched the game to see he difference; a simple glance at Amare’s 24 points and 10 rebounds might lead you to believe that he had another one of his great performances, but that was not the case. Bynum played great defense on the Knicks’ star player.
And for the record, Bynum was matched up on Amare mainly as a result of Bynum drawing two quick personal fouls on Timofey Mosgov, the Knicks’ starting center, early in the first quarter. Bynum used his offensive power/skill to bully Mosgov in the post and force him to the bench, which pushed Amare to the center spot.
44 – The number of points scored by the Lakers bench (compared to the 29 that the Knicks bench scored).
LA got a huge boost from its second string guys. Odom was his usual self – he provided 14 points (5-10 FG), 3 rebounds, and 3 assists). But Shannon Brown played another solid game, logging 12 points and 3 boards, including multiple highlights as seen below. Also, Luke Walton and Steve Blake added 8 points each, and Joe Smith even saw some time and added a bucket.
Last night marked the second consecutive game in which Brown chipped in double-digit points and twenty-plus minutes. His shot selection has improved (slightly) and he is playing with better control, although at times it still seems like he is too fast for his own good.
Walton had a great game. He played 18 minutes, which is more minutes than he has played in the past five games combined (15 total minutes in those contests). And he had a nice all-around performance that included 4 assists and 3 rebounds. At one point, the fans at MSG were even chanting “LUUUUKKKEEE.”
And finally, if Steve Blake could put together more consistent performances, I bet he would supplant Fisher in the starting lineup. Fisher had absolutely zero impact on Friday night – he scored zero points in 25 minutes and had only 1 assist. Furthermore, he was consistently beat off the dribble by the Knicks’ Raymond Felton. Blake put together a nice 8-point, 7-assist night, but he still can’t seem to string those types of games together. It’s like nobody wants the spot.s
Knicks: 41.2 FG%, 25.0 3FG%, 18 TO, 20 points in each 2nd and 3rd quarters
After the Lakers surrendered just 33 points in the second half against the Celtics, many thought the Lakers defense was back. And while the Knicks put up 96 points on Friday night, there were points in the game, specifically in the second and third quarters, when the Lakers played championship-level defense again, which has been a staple of this current road trip.
Ultimately, it is all a work in progress and, so long as the Lakers continue to improve and peak during the playoffs, their mid-season struggles will be quickly forgotten. The Lakers renewed commitment to defense will be tested on Sunday afternoon when they travel to Orlando to face a very potent offense with threats on all areas of the court.