Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks absolutely exploded out of the gate on Thursday night, landing an early knockout blow against an overmatched and disjointed Los Angeles Lakers team. With spectacular perimeter shooting and a distinct edge in intensity, the Knicks handily dispatched Kobe Bryant and company, sending a reeling Lakers squad to its fourth straight defeat.
New York scored a season-high 41 first-quarter points, leaving the stunned Lakers in the dust. L.A. would eventually close the gap, but this game was never close. Anthony led the charge in the opening period, scoring an inspired 22 points (of 30 on the night) against his former coach's new team.
Kobe Bryant seemed to know he was on his own against the Knicks, but even his best efforts couldn't prevent the game from getting out of hand in a hurry.
With the easy win, the Knicks move to 17-5 and stay firmly perched atop the Eastern Conference.
For the Lakers, who fall to 9-14, the blowout loss only emphasized the very real issues that have plagued the club all season long. L.A. was embarrassingly slow in its defensive rotations, lost the effort battle by a mile, and simply didn't have the firepower to match the Knicks' devastating offensive attack.
Anyone still wondering whether it was time to hit the panic button on the Lakers' season likely has the answer now.
Both coasts are going to be heatedly discussing this one for a while, so let's get the trash talk started by grading the individual performances in this big-city battle.