LeBron, Lakers turn back Knicks in OT

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Lakers have a simple answer to winning ballgames: put a healthy LeBron James on the floor. After missing five games due to an injury, James made his return back to the fold with a triple-double in the Lakers’ 122-115 overtime win against the New York Knicks at Crypto.com Arena.

“He’s incredible,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of the 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists effort James put forth against the Knicks. “I guess the time off served him well. We didn’t want to play him 39 minutes. Obviously, the overtime impacted that but just played a great basketball game. His defense, his competitive spirit, his IQ is everything to us. The way he scores the basketball and always sets up teammates, it’s rare. He was special tonight. Just a great performance.”

James was not the only Lakers who was special. Malik Monk helped turned the game around in L.A.’s favor by going off in the third quarter for 18 of his 29 points in the period. The Lakers outscored the Knicks 31-13 in the third quarter after being down by as much as 21 points in the first half.

After putting up only four points through the first two quarters, Monk said he took on a new approach in the second half.

February 5, 2022. Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) tries to take the ball away from New York Knicks forward Julius Randle in a non-conference game at Crypto.com Arena. Despite Randle having a big night with 32 points and 16 rebounds, the Lakers prevailed in overtime with a 122-115 win against the Knicks. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“Just to be aggressive,” Monk said. “I think I was a little passive in the first half second-guessing myself. My teammates told me to be you, be yourself and that’s what I did.”

Playing against the Knicks, the Lakers unveiled a new starting lineup for the first time this season. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel penned in James, Monk, Anthony Davis, Stanley Johnson, and Russell Westbrook as the team’s starting five players.

That unit got outplayed by New York’s starting five in the first quarter of their second and final meeting of the season. Behind the hot shooting of RJ Barrett, who dropped in 17 points and the 12 points that former Laker Julius Randle put in, the Knicks raced out of the gate quickly as they did in the two team’s first encounter at Madison Square Garden in November.

Back then, New York beat Los Angeles, 106-100. And from every indication, it looked as if the Knicks were going to hand the Lakers their second straight defeat following the 111-110 loss Los Angeles absorbed at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

February 5, 2022. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) goes for the block against New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30). Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The Knicks got off to a 42-29 lead in the first quarter. By midway of the second quarter, New York extended their advantage to 66-45 and looked like they were going to run away from the Lakers. The Lakers managed to cut the Knicks’ lead to 15 before intermission.

The game flipped in the third period. What went wrong for Los Angeles in the first half went right in the second. Besides the hot shooting of Monk, the Lakers played defense, holding New York into 26 percent in the period. That momentum would carry over for the Lakers in the fourth and overtime periods.

The adjustments the team had to make in the second half were simple, said Lakers forward Anthony Davis.

“Play defense,” remarked Davis in a postgame press conference. “We weren’t playing any type of defense. We weren’t physical, they were the more physical team. They were playing harder than us. We need to stop doing that, digging ourselves into a hole. But we were able- Malik was able to win that third quarter for us alone. Then we just fed off of him going into the fourth and going into overtime. We need to do a better job of not digging ourselves into a hole but just took it upon ourselves to actually play defense. Cuts some guys off and not give them a lot of open looks.”

The way the Lakers played defense in the third and fourth quarters married over into overtime. After seeing Barrett torch them for a game-high 36 points, the Lakers kept the New York forward from scoring any points in the extra period. James, in the meantime, helped put the Lakers over the top with his combined 12 points in the final two quarters.

“After the first quarter the knee loosened up a lot more, my mind loosened up a lot more and I was able just to play basketball,” James said. “Just excited to be back in a uniform, back on the floor with my guys. Missed them, missed the game. Happy I was able to make a few plays to help us win the ball game.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James posted a triple-double to help his team defeat the New York Knicks at Crypto.com Arena. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline