The New York Knicks handed the Los Angeles Lakers their sixth loss in seven games on Thursday night. The Knicks led by as much as 26 points, winning 116-107.
Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He played just 23 minutes before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.
Through 22 games, Anthony might be the frontrunner to be the league MVP. He’s led the Knicks to a 17-5 record, good for first in the Eastern Conference and second in the NBA. Anthony trails only Kobe Bryant in scoring average, putting up 27.9 points per game.
Bryant stated that Anthony is the most difficult player to cover the league, even over LeBron James. After the game, Bryant claimed that Anthony had previously been treated unfairly by the New York fans and media.
“He and I are good friends,” said Bryant. “We talked together and last year was very tough for him because he got criticized a lot for shooting, playing the way he likes to play. And then the whole Linsanity thing happened and everybody said, ‘They’re better without Carmelo’ and all that nonsense. You guys put the hammer on him and as a result, he kind of got a little gun shy, a little self-conscious.”
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Bryant criticized the media for treating Anthony harshly, and then praised him for having a big year.
“I just asked him, 'What the hell are you doing? To hell with them; you have to do what you do best.' And I think the organization put pieces around him that allowed him to do that. And now, you guys all celebrate him for doing what he's always done. It's funny. God bless you guys."
Before the emergence of Jeremy Lin last season, Anthony and the Knicks struggled. New York eventually reached the playoffs, where they lost to the Miami Heat in five games. In the offseason, Lin signed with the Houston Rockets, with whom he hasn’t been able to match last year’s success.
Bryant says Anthony is finally having success with the Knicks because he’s been put in a situation where he can succeed.
“He’s playing the way he’s always played throughout his career. He’s in an environment where they celebrate that and encourage that. He is being who he is.”
Anthony has been one of the best scorers in basketball for his entire career. Despite his individual success, the All-Star’s teams haven’t experienced much success. Anthony has made it out of the first round of the postseason just once since he entered the league in 2003.
The Lakers and Bryant are having their own troubles this season. L.A. is just 9-14, even after trading for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason. Nash has missed most of the year with a leg injury, while Pau Gasol hasn’t played since Dec. 2.
The Knicks and Lakers are scheduled to meet again on Christmas Day in Los Angeles.