This was more like what was envisioned when the Los Angeles Lakers teamed Kobe Bryant with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The Lakers looked formidable on Christmas Day, handling the scorching New York Knicks, 100-94 to pull to .500 on the season.
Bryant had a jolly good time, scoring 34 points to lead L.A. to its fifth successive victory. They might not be where they hope to be by season’s end, but they sure are looking a lot better.
Nash was a major factor, running the offense with aplomb and providing points at important late stages of the fourth quarter. He had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds only his second game after missing two months with a bad leg.
Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Pau Gasol scored 13 with 8 boards. Carmelo Anthony had 34 for the Knicks and J.R. Smith scored 25 off the bench.
New York led by as many as 10, but Bryant and Nash charged a fourth-quarter run the that pulled the Lakers to within one. Bryant’s basket with 7:38 left in the game put Los Angeles in front for good, as L.A. closed the game strongly for the second straight time.
The Lakers came from 14 behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors in their last game. Tuesday, Gasol helped out in the fourth-quarter with a jumper and late driving dunk.
The Lakers shot 48.1% from the field, but defensively they held New York to only 16 points in the fourth quarter.
This was a much more fluid Lakers team than early in the season. Nash’s presence has made a significant difference. His ability to run the offense and hit shots makes for a more diverse offense.
Also, Metta World Peace has been playing well. He had 16 points in the second quarter, including eight straight at one point.
At .500 now with five straight wins, the Lakers seemed to have righted their early-season wrongs. At least for now.