Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping the Los Angeles beat the Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday. The Lakers’ extended their winning streak to five games and lifted their record to .500.
Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.
The Lakers improved to 14-14 — 9-9 under new coach Mike D’Antoni — and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.
The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five.
Smith’s 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.
Gasol dunked with 12 seconds to go, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team’s struggles and coaching change, home happy. The Lakers avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.
Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Bryant had eight of the Lakers’ first 10 points to open the fourth during a run that provided their first lead since the opening quarter in a game matching the two teams that have played the most on Christmas Day.
They took the lead for good on Bryant’s basket with 7:38 remaining. Anthony and Tyson Chandler were in foul trouble in the fourth, with Chandler fouling out late.
The Knicks opened the third on a 15-5 run, with Anthony setting up on the perimeter and hitting two 3-pointers as part of his 10 points that stretched their lead to 61-53. His jumper provided the Knicks’ largest lead of the game, 69-60.
Bryant and Nash ignited the quiet atmosphere by leading a 17-9 run that drew the Lakers to 78-77 going into the fourth. They combined to score 15 points, although Bryant missed two free throws to end the third that would have given the Lakers their first lead since early in the game. The Knicks’ earlier roll dissolved in missed shots and a technical on Chandler for arguing a call.
World Peace scored 16 points in the second quarter, including eight in a row, when the Lakers played catch-up most of the way. His 3-pointer gave the Lakers their first lead of the period with 1:10 remaining. Smith tied it up with a free throw before Nash’s jumper sent the Lakers into halftime leading 51-49.
Bryant scored the Lakers’ final nine points of the first quarter to give them a 25-23 lead. D’Antoni’s plan of having Darius Morris guard Anthony didn’t last long after he scored five of the Knicks’ first seven points.
NOTES: Bryant surpassed Oscar Robertson as the league’s all-time Christmas Day scorer with 383 points. Robertson had 377. … Knicks F/C Amare Stoudemire shot some before the game. He’s been out all season after left knee surgery. … … Knicks C Marcus Camby had four points and four rebounds in 8 minutes. He’s been sidelined by a sore left foot and barely played this season. … Asked about Bryant as an MVP candidate, D’Antoni said, “You can’t put anybody MVP if you’re below .500.” … In their only other Christmas Day meeting in 1963, the Lakers beat the Knicks 134-126 behind 47 points by Jerry West and 27 from Elgin Baylor. … Several Lakers had unopened gift bags in their lockers with the tag, “From Kobe Merry Xmas 2012.” … The Lakers were all in white, while the Knicks were all in orange down to their socks in a color similar to Syracuse. … Howard spent time before the game explaining to his teammates a snake chant he wanted them to do during Bryant’s pre-game introduction, in honor of his “Mamba” nickname. … Among the celebs holidaying at Staples Center were Rihanna and Chris Brown, Adam Levine, Samuel L. Jackson, George Lopez and Richard Lewis. Vanessa Bryant and her two young daughters sat courtside opposite the Lakers bench.
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