LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers fell to their second straight loss with the New York Knicks etching out a 90-87 win on a last-second 3-pointer from Jose Calderon.
The Lakers struggled from the tip shooting just 15.8 percent in the first quarter but trailed just 18-11 at the end of the period. Jordan Clarkson scored eight of his team-high 10 first-half points in the second quarter, but Los Angeles trailed New York 46-35 at the half.
The game remained close with both teams shooting below 40 percent for much of the second half, including Knicks shooting 28.6 percent in the third quarter. This helped the Lakers crawl back into the game taking after a 3-pointer by Lou Williams with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was a back and forth battle in the final three minutes with Bryant and Carmelo Anthony trading buckets, but the Knicks prevailed with a 3-pointer by Calderon in the final few seconds of the game.
The Lakers have just 15 games left in the season, here are five things we learned on Sunday night:
Bryant Shooting struggles
The 37-year-old gave it a go for his last game against the Knicks despite dealing with sore right shoulder scoring 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting in 27 minutes played.
He got off to a slow start making just one out of his first seven shot attempts. He struggled with his shot from the outside missing his first three 3-pointers. He was quite offensively until late in the fourth quarter hitting a couple of critical jumpers that gave the Lakers a five-point lead at one point.
Bryant’s also had a potential game-winning fadeaway jumper rim out giving the Knicks a chance to win the game in regulation. Following the game, Bryant spoke fondly about Anthony with Sunday’s game being their last game against each other.
“it’s fun. [We] had so many battles throughout the years,” Bryant said. “It’s crazy that it’s the same thing with him and Bron [LeBron James]. It’s always strange thinking it’s the last time. But it’s been fun.”
It has been a difficult final season due to his health and inconsistent play at times, but Bryant has been a much more effective scorer over the last month and a half. Entering Sunday, he was averaging 16.9 points on 40.8 percent shooting since the All-Star break. This includes three 20-point performances topped by a 26-point outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
With 15 games left in the season, Bryant is looking forward to playing the final month of his career.
“I’m ready. It’s exciting,” Bryant said. “These next 15 games should be fun and the last one should be even more fun.”
Anthony closes it out
In his final meeting against Bryant, Anthony posted a double-double with game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (12) in the win.
Anthony struggled with his shot in the first making three out of his first 10 shots but did was tied for the lead at the half with seven rebounds along with eight points. He picked up in the fourth quarter with the game on the line scoring 12 points with several huge buckets with eight points in the final three minutes of the game.
“I wanted this [game],” Anthony said. “The going back and forth just made it that much better of a game. I’m pretty sure we gave the fans what they paid to see out there tonight.
After the game, Anthony spoke extremely highly of Bryant stating that his friendship with him goes beyond playing in the NBA.
“He’s an assassin. You can’t take any plays off going up against him. He’s an animal,” Anthony said. “You see flashes of him out there, he still has that look in his eyes when he gets the ball. You have to pay close attention to him, so we’re definitely going to miss that.”
Over the last two seasons, Anthony has been slowed by knee injuries but he has still proven to be a capable scorer. He has led the Knicks in scoring 44 times this season while posting 37 games with 20-plus points including seven with 30 or more points. Although he may not be the same player physically, the 31-year-old is still a huge impact offensive asset.
Prior to the game, Lakers’ head coach Byron Scott had lofty praises calling the nine-time All-Star the best offensive talent that he’s seen in awhile.
“I have always thought Melo as the most gifted offensive player that I have seen in a long time, especially when he was in his prime,” Scott said. “I just thought he was so difficult to guard because his size and strength, the way he can get to the basket. I thought LeBron [James] was great and Kobe was unbelievable but Melo was a natural all-around scorer.”
First quarter woes
The Lakers were slow out of the gate tying a season-low for fewest points in the opening period on 15.8 percent shooting with just three made field goals and no assists in the period.
They struggled to get anything going settling for jump shots that played a huge part in Los Angeles having their last field goal in the first quarter occurring with 4:29 left in the period.
“Effort wasn’t great. Transition defensive obviously wasn’t great,” Scott said. “Execution-wise, I thought we just went back to our old ways of dribbling, dribbling, dribbling around. it wasn’t great at all.”
In any other situation, this slow start may have spelled a huge deficit but the Knicks also struggled hitting just 35 percent of their shots that only accounted for an 18-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
Los Angeles did pick it up in the second quarter, but their porous start put them in a hole that they had to overcome for the entire game.
Russell has an off game
Since the Lakers’ rookie was reinserted in the starting lineup 10 games ago prior to Sunday night, Russell is averaging 21.0 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 46.3 from 3-point range.
The 20-year-old had an off night that began with a slow first half scoring just four points on 1-of-4 shooting, and that continued in the final two quarters with his minutes limited, including not playing the entire fourth quarter with Scott electing to play Williams instead.
Following the game, Scott had stated that the first unit that includes Russell already had “enough experience” closing out games, which he felt that the bench was playing well in the fourth quarter to earn them playing time.
“The fourth quarter was based on those guys were play well,” Scott said. “They were playing the right way. They got us back into the game. So at that particular point, I said, ‘I’m going to roll with them and let them finish the game.'”
It didn’t appear to be a strife at Russell but the overall team’s porous play in the first half that led to Scott’s decision to sit the team’s young core in the fourth quarter.
Williams strong in return
In his first game back after missing five games due to a hamstring injury, the 28-year-old put together an efficient performance with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting with a team-high five assists.
Williams was at his best in the fourth quarter scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting that played a huge part in helping the Lakers mount a comeback and take a lead late in the fourth quarter. He had also hit a go-ahead 20-foot jumper with 41.1 seconds left.
“He probably spurred it a little bit. Scott said of Williams. “Marcelo [Huertas] has been playing well lately, and so has Brandon [Bass]. Now you add Lou back to that list, that’s a pretty good second unit.”
With Williams back in the fold, it should take a chunk out of Russell’s workload over the final 15 games of the regular season.
Bob Garcia IV
Latest posts by Bob Garcia IV (see all)
- LeBron James making an early case for MVP - December 5, 2018
- Kobe Bryant believes that Lakers will win an NBA title ‘before you know it’ - December 4, 2018
- Lakers continue to grow behind LeBron James’ play - December 2, 2018