Knicks-Lakers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 29, 2011
After starting the season with a dramatic win, the New York Knicks opened a three-game road trip with a disappointing loss. Bouncing back against the Los Angeles Lakers doesn't look like it will be easy. The Knicks try to avoid losing a ninth straight game to the Lakers when they meet Thursday night at Staples Center. New York (1-1) got off to an encouraging start to the season by rallying from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Boston 106-104 on Christmas. Carmelo Anthony hit two free throws with 16 seconds left to break a tie and help the Knicks snap an eight-game losing streak to the Celtics. While the victory over its long-time nemesis gave New York an immediate boost of confidence, that feeling quickly faded with Wednesday's 92-78 loss to Golden State. The Knicks led the Warriors by eight early in the second half, and the game was tied at 64 after three quarters, but Golden State scored 25 of the first 31 points of the fourth quarter to put the game away. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, who combined for 58 points on 18 of 28 shooting in the opener, totaled 29 points on 8 of 27 shooting in the second game. "I'm not making any excuses, but we're a young team that's coming together and we have to build,'' said Tyson Chandler, who was held to two points and three rebounds. "Unfortunately, we're learning things on the fly.'' New York now has the difficult task of trying to beat Los Angeles (1-2) for the first time since a 107-106 victory on Feb. 13, 2007. The Knicks' eight-game losing streak to the Lakers is their longest current skid against any opponent. Neither of last year's meetings were close, with New York losing the two by an average of 19.5 points. Both of those games, however, took place before the Knicks acquired Anthony from Denver. The four-time All-Star averaged 27.5 points in two games against the Lakers last season with the Nuggets. He only scored 13 on Wednesday. Although New York is a far better team offensively with Anthony, it still needs to figure out a way to slow down Kobe Bryant. In the eight games against the Knicks since 2007-08, Bryant is averaging 34.1 points, his most against any team. The 13-time All-Star had 26 points in Tuesday's 96-71 victory over Utah for the Lakers' first win of the season. Pau Gasol added 22 points and nine rebounds and Metta World Peace scored 14 to help Los Angeles avoid the franchise's first 0-3 start since 1978-79. "We've got a long way to go, it's just one win," World Peace said. "We've got to keep working, we're still not satisfied, and we still have to improve." The Lakers saw great improvement from their defense, which limited the Jazz to 32.2 percent shooting and one 3-pointer on 13 attempts. "The focus, the energy, the effort, that communication and trust that we brought defensively, was exciting to see," said Mike Brown, who won his first game as Lakers coach. Los Angeles opened the season playing three games in as many days - its only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the lockout-shortened season - and should greatly benefit from a day off. The Lakers are already hurting with Bryant nursing a torn ligament in his right wrist and Gasol wearing extra support for his sprained right shoulder. "It still bothers me a little bit," Gasol said of his injured shoulder, "but it felt better (Tuesday) than it did (Monday) so it seems like it's under control." Gasol is averaging 20.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last five games against the Knicks.
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