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Knicks 101, Lakers 94: "<3"

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's win over the Lakers may have been the brightest omen in a mostly dim Knick season. Phil Jackson wanted this win and didn't hide it, labeling it beforehand "a game to win." What Phil wanted, Phil got. If that trend continues in May (lottery), June (draft), and July (free agency)...

The game opened with the intensity of a Pro Bowl scrimmage, then picked up into something more like a boxing match in Rocky: two lugs throwing punches, relentlessly, indiscriminately, with no energy wasted on luxuries like defense and strategy. The real NBA action began in the second quarter, when the Knicks erupted for 35 to take a 60-54 lead at the half, their second-highest opening half this season (the highest was vs. Denver). More than half the Lakers' 54 points came in the paint. Paging Dr. Towns. Dr. Karl-Anthony Towns to the paint, please. One reason for the high-scoring half: a lot of shots going up thanks to the two teams combining for only 7 turnovers.

The Knicks led throughout the third, swelling to 12 after a Langston Galloway this:

After which the Lakers ended the quarter on a 9-3 run to cut the Knick lead in half. L.A. threatened to threaten at times in the fourth, but the Knicks felt as in control as a 12-51 team can feel...which, against this Laker team, was surprisingly safe. Jason Smith clinched the win late with a power lay-up, a shot I didn't know existed until Smith did it and which was even more awesome than it sounds.

Other notes:

- Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 0-9 last game. Tonight: 22 points on 8-14 FGs. In addition to all five threes, Tim also had a nice reverse layup late.

- 27 assists on 36 baskets versus only 8 turnovers for the Knicks.

- A balanced attack by the Knicks with five scorers in double figures: Cleanthony Early (11), Galloway (12), Alexey Shved (14), Andrea Bargnani (16), and Hardaway's 22.

- New York hit 9 of 18 from downtown.

- Tonight's win was the Knicks' first on the road this season against a Western conference team and snapped an eight-game losing streak when visiting the Lakers.

- This year's New York/Los Angeles Staples Center third quarter was a 20-20 draw. Last year's was a 51-21 Laker supernova. The journey of 1,000 miles...

- Cle had a nice driving dunk and hit a jumper near the end of the first quarter. Walt Frazier remarked, excitedly, that it was Cle's best offensive first quarter of the season. Those were the only two shots Early took in the first. And yet it probably was still his best offensive opening all year. He took only two shots over the following 27 minutes of the game, then hit a couple baskets in the fourth to get the lead back to double-digits. Early also had a weak-side rejection of cartoonish supervillain Carlos Boozer.

- For the hardcore metanarrative nerds, the Galloway/Jordan Clarkson matchup was a highly-anticipated collision of diamonds-in-the-dung mythos. Langston won: 12 points (5-7 FGs), 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals vs. Clarkson's 11 points (4-12 FGs), 1 assist, 4 rebounds.

- Lou Amundson had five assists tonight, in addition to some precise passes that didn't end in buckets. I try to avoid the mascot-ing that sometimes happens with some players, so maybe years from now I'll re-read this with an embarrassed grin -- but I really do like watching Amundson play.

- When the Knicks and Lakers both stink, you can hear a lot of individual comments from people in the Staples crowd.

- Clyde brought up an unnamed, unspecified poll that concluded Magic Johnson and Byron Scott were the greatest backcourt in history. He disputed this, as any sentient being would, and could. Not. Stop. Laughing about it. He was still giggling when MSG cut to commercials.

- My father once told me I was the youngest old man he knew. I embrace that tonight and admit it angries up my blood something fierce when guys dribble out the final seconds of a quarter without trying a full-court heave. That's like seeing an unused lotto scratch-off on the ground, picking it up, and throwing it in the trash. I'm watching you, Shane Larkin. Those shots aren't why you're 42% from the field this year. Someone let the players know basketball-reference.com catalogues how many heaves a player takes. Shoot it!

- Laker organist Dieter Ruehle played the Futurama theme song. Much respect, Laker organist Dieter Ruehle.

- There are charms to the game of basketball that transcend parochial fandom and get to the heart of it at its beautiful best. One of these charms: Carlos Boozer's parabolic J. Like a rainbow off a trampoline. Boozer's airballs carry more beauty than most dudes' swishes.

- Tina Cervasio told a story about Alexey Shved and Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin being good friends. Ovechkin's mother is a Russian basketball legend. Tina threw it back to Kenny Albert, who immediately pointed out Ovechkin's Caps lost to the Rangers last night. True blue, Kenny!

This was the perfect win for a year like this. It was pacific. It was fun. It was meaningless. With a two-game cushion on Philadelphia and Minnesota entering the night, this was a heartwarming win, deserving of the heart Chiniqua gave it. Next game is Saturday at Golden State. Let tonight's aftertaste linger. Saturday probably won't taste so good.