Whenever Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers come to play at Madison Square Garden, there is always a special buzz in the building that other teams don’t bring. It is a very similar feeling back in the 90’s when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls would come to town because when the best players come to New York City, they show why they are the best.
Bryant, who scored an MSG-record 61 points in his last trip to New York, returns Friday, looking to help the Lakers win their sixth straight over the Knicks.
This is the second game of a long eight game road trip for the Lakers. It did not get off to a good start last night as they fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 93-87. Kobe became the youngest player to reach 25,000 career points as he scored 20 in the first half, but faded badly in the second half as he shot 4 for 15 and scored 11. Bryant has struggled shooting the ball lately by only converting 37.1 percent of his shots over the last nine games. Added to Kobe’s shooting troubles is the Lakers play away from home. Los Angeles has lost five of six road games and has been held to fewer than 90 points in the last two losses.
The Knicks hope to take advantage of the Lakers road struggles and hopefully tired legs. New York reached the halfway mark to the season on Monday afternoon when they ended a two game losing streak by defeating the Detroit Pistons, 99-91.
Nate Robinson was the hero for New York as he scored 27 points, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 11 of 18 overall. Robinson is averaging 15.9 points in nine games since returning of the bench after he did not play for 14 games last month. If there is one guy that can match Kobe’s explosiveness, it’s Robinson. Look no further to Nate’s first game back when he erupted for 41 points in a come back road win over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Knickerbockers have played very well at home lately going 9-3 since the month of December. Their defense has stepped at home as they have allowed 100 points to an opponent only once during that span.
It is going to very interesting to see what kind of defensive gameplan Mike D’Antoni will have for Kobe Byrant. You are probably going to see everyone from Wilson Chandler to Chris Cuhon to Jared Jeffries all take turns on covering number 8.
“It’s New York and that’s kind of where his lights go on,” D’Antoni said after Wednesday’s practice. “You just try to do the best you can, keep him off the foul line, make him make jump shots and hope he doesn’t get 60. He did it last year and he might do it this year, but we had a chance to win last year even when he had 60 and I think we’ll always have a chance to win.”
In their first game this season, the Lakers dropped the Knicks 100-90. Bryant had a great game with 34 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Chandler led the way for the Knicks with 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Knicks start the second half of the season with a record of 17-24. Every game from here to the rest of the season is a critical one if New York has any hope for the post season. They currently sit one and a half games behind the eighth-place Chicago Bulls.