Ga­sol dunk closes out Knicks late in fourth

Lak­ers

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING - Con­tin­ued from C Lak­ers for­ward Metta World Peace, who had 20 points and seven re­bounds be­fore foul­ing out, bat­tles Knicks cen­ter Tyson Chan­dler in the paint. ALEX GAL­LARDO / AP

in the lineup and we’re start­ing to see how we want to play.”

The Knicks con­trolled most of the game be­hind An­thony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they strug­gled of­fen­sively in the fourth, when An­thony was lim­ited to seven points and Smith had five as the Lak­ers’ de­fense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lak­ers ahead by four.

World Peace cred­ited his de­fense on An­thony to “old-school bas­ket­ball.”

“I’m back in shape and it’s a lit­tle tough to guard me,” he said.

Smith’s 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. Af­ter Pau Ga­sol made one of two free throws, Smith missed an­other 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 sec­onds left.

With Bryant dou­bleteamed, Lak­ers guard Steve Nash passed to Ga­sol, who dunked with 12 sec­onds to go, punc­tu­at­ing a win that sent Lak­ers fans, frus­trated by the team’s strug­gles and coach­ing change, home happy. The Lak­ers avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.

A smil­ing Howard called Ga­sol’s driv­ing slam “a sub­ma­rine dunk be­cause he was very low to the ground.”

Ga­sol re­sponded, “I don’t dunk as of­ten as I used to so it felt good. I took it right down the lane and fin­ished strong.”

Nash had 16 points, 11 as­sists and six re­bounds in his sec­ond game in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while re­cov­er­ing from a small frac­ture in his lower left leg.

“It was an im­por­tant win for us as we were a lit­tle bit des­per­ate,” Nash said.

LOS AN­GE­LES — The pieces of the puz­zle that have been the Lak­ers’ con­found­ing sea­son so far are start­ing to fall into place.

Kobe Bryant en­gi­neered a sec­ond-half come­back, the de­fense stepped up, and Los An­ge­les beat the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tues­day, ex­tend­ing its win­ning streak to five games.

“We’re .500,” a smil­ing Dwight Howard said. “We did it on Christ­mas, too. I knew this day would come.”

Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christ­mas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven re­bounds while de­fend­ing Carmelo An­thony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. An­thony said he hy­per­ex­tended his left knee, but ex­pects to play on Wed­nes­day in Phoenix.

Bryant, the league’s lead­ing scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.

“If you’re go­ing to play on Christ­mas, it’s al­ways bet­ter to win. Makes it all worth­while,” said Bryant, who would soon hop a flight to Den­ver, get­ting there ahead of the Nuggets, who played the Clip­pers in the other half of the hol­i­day dou­ble­header at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

The Lak­ers im­proved to 1414 — 9-9 un­der new coach Mike D’An­toni — and upped their hol­i­day record to 21-18, in­clud­ing 13-9 at home. They re­turned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.

“It’s so early in the sea­son to have turned a cor­ner,” Bryant said. “We have ev­ery­body

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