Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/25/12
LOS ANGELES -- In every great battle, there comes a time when you cant look back. At that point, at that moment, you have to show what youre made of. Never shy of issuing a challenge, Kobe Bryant did just that to good friend and rival Carmelo Anthony late in the Lakers' afternoon game with the Knicks on Christmas Day at Staples Center. After Metta World Peace fouled out of the game with just under two minutes remaining, the issue of guarding the NBAs early season favorite to win the MVP, fell on Bryant. The challenge was delivered. Show me what you got, Bryant told Anthony in the fourth quarter on Tuesday. Lets go. The trash talk isnt anything new for these two, and for Bryant it provides a sense of normalcy. If you cant trash talk with your friends, what type of relationship is that? Bryant asks. What wasnt normal was the defense of the Lakers in the fourth quarter. The Knicks were held to just 16 fourth-quarter points in a 100-94 win for the Lakers on Christmas Day, extending the winning streak for the home team to a season-high five games. In a game unlike the NBA has seen since 1977, it was Anthony and Bryant on center stage for the world to see. It marked the first time the top two scorers in the league faced each other on Christmas Day since Pete Maravich and George Gervin did so in 1977. Bryant got the win, the bragging rights, and passed Oscar Robertson as the NBA's all-time leading scorer in Christmas Day games, but the two superstars were deadlocked in the scoring column, finishing with 34 points each on Tuesday. Bryant made 14-of-24 shots. Anthony made 13-of-23. The Staples Center hardwood provided a canvas for each to display his scoring talents. Bryant was hot out of the gate, scoring 13 first-quarter points. After making his first two shots of the game, Anthony made just two-of-nine shots the remainder of the half and the Knicks trailed 51-49 at halftime. Metta World Peace was physical with the Knicks All-Star, forcing him into turnovers and bad shots in the games first 24 minutes. The opportunities that Melo got, I mean, he had to work for them, Bryant said. Thats the beauty about competing against Metta. You have to have your hard hat on. Despite the A defense his teammate was playing, Bryant knew the best from Anthony was yet to come. Hes just going to keep on going, Bryant said. I know because I do the same thing. It means nothing. Hes going to continue to look for his opportunities and if he gets them hes going to knock them down. Anthony scored half of his 34 points in the third quarter, including 10 during the teams 15-5 run to open the half and take a 64-56 lead. The third quarter provided the best act of the game as the two stars combined to score half of the points in the period, playing every bit the part of the top two scorers in the game. I think its great for the NBA, said Knicks guard Jason Kidd. I think its great for the game. (A) Christmas Day game when you have the top two scorers going at it and they both compete at a high level and both want to win. Its a lot of fun to watch. Added Bryant: Its fun. Its competitive. You get the chance to watch a truly great player up close and watch him do what he does best, and us, kind of, go tit for tat a little bit. For the Lakers, the fun may be just beginning. After winning their fifth straight, and second in a row with Steve Nash in the lineup, things appear to be looking up for a team that returned to the .500 mark for the first time this month. But have they turned the corner? Im not really sure what that means at this point, because its so early, Bryant said. I think were playing better. I think were figuring some things out. Its still early in the season to turn the corner. We want to continue to improve and get better and in the late stages of the season you want to go into the playoffs feeling like youre feeling the right way and playing with the right kind of momentum. The momentum the Lakers have on their side now was enough to get past one of the top teams in the NBA, and for Bryant to stand tall as the leagues leading scorer while adding a notch in the win column. Its fun, said Anthony of facing Bryant. He gets the last laugh because he wins.
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