Lakers defeat Knicks, 99-82
It wasn't the usual suspects who saved the Lakers in the final minutes.
The Lakers reserves scored 15 of the team's 19 points in the fourth quarter to help secure a 99-82 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Guard Steve Blake made a pair of three-pointers in the quarter, Matt Barnes added a dunk and another three-pointer and Troy Murphy buried a jumper.
Kobe Bryant scored all of his 28 points in the first three quarters and Gasol made the only basket by the starters in the final quarter, finishing off his 16-point evening. Bryant and Gasol were removed from the game with 2 minutes 8 seconds left.
The Lakers bench finished with a combined 40 points, with Blake (11 points) finishing in double figures and Metta World Peace (nine) and Jason Kapono (nine) coming close.
Carmelo Anthony had 27 points for the Knicks, who lost both ends of a back-to-back situation after falling to Golden State on Wednesday night. The Knicks were outclassed on offense and defense and would have been blown out even worse had they not made 34 of 41 free throws against the Lakers.
No lead may be safe for a team that continues to struggle closing out quarters.
Just when it seemed the Lakers had taken a commanding 78-63 advantage on Kobe Bryant's four-point play, the Knicks closed the third quarter with a 9-2 surge to pull within eight points.
The Knicks are doing it largely from the free throw line, where they have made 30 of 35 shots.
Bryant had a moment to remember late in the quarter when he made a three-pointer over Renaldo Balkman while drawing a foul. Bryant made the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play, prompting chants of "MVP!" from the crowd.
Bryant also drew roars when he made a turnaround baseline jumper over Balkman. Bryant has 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
Carmelo Anthony leads the Knicks with 23 points.
Lakers 63, Knicks 51 (halftime)
The new-look New York Knicks had a familiar feel on the defensive end of the court in the first half Thursday night at Staples Center, failing to apply much pressure as the Lakers made a sizzling 71.9% of their shots on the way to taking a 12-point halftime lead.
The Lakers had their way with the Knicks both inside and out, making 23 of 32 shots overall and five of six shots from behind the three-point line. The Lakers actually shot better from the field than they did from the free-throw line, where they made 12 of 18 shots (66.7%).
Kobe Bryant led the way with 15 points on five-for-seven shooting and Pau Gasol added 10 points, making four of six shots. Metta World Peace had nine points on three-for-three shooting and Josh McRoberts provided eight points and a highlight-reel dunk off an alley-oop pass from Steve Blake.
The experiment of putting Devin Ebanks on Knicks star Carmelo Anthony lasted for about six minutes in the first quarter before Lakers Coach Mike Brown opted to have World Peace and Matt Barnes take over the assignment. Ebanks finally re-entered the game late in the second quarter and played a total of seven first-half minutes.
Anthony had 18 points on six-for-nine shooting, with his teammates combining for 33 points on a woeful six-for-27 shooting. Tyson Chandler scored all nine of his points from the free-throw line.
Even with center Andrew Bynum serving the final game of his four-game suspension for committing a flagrant foul in last season's playoffs, the Lakers held a 30-12 advantage over the Knicks in points in the paint.
Lakers 31, Knicks 24 (end of first quarter)
New York got bigger and supposedly tougher with the acquisition of 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler, but it was the Lakers who did most of the pushing around in the first quarter Thursday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers outscored the Knicks, 16-2, in the paint and closed the quarter on a 17-5 run that coincided with small forward Metta World Peace coming into the game to defend Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony scored only two of his nine points after World Peace entered with 6 minutes 2 seconds left to replace Devin Ebanks. The Lakers defense stiffened considerably from that point and held the Knicks to 27.8% shooting for the quarter.
Kobe Bryant had eight points, making all three of his shots, and Josh McRoberts and Pau Gasol added six points apiece for the Lakers.
Chandler had seven points, though they all came from the free throw line. He missed his only shot. Amare Stoudemire made only two of eight shots and Anthony two of three.
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: Lakers forward Metta World Peace is fouled by New York's Bill Walker during the first quarter of Thursday's game at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times