LOS ANGELES (AP) - Even before Ron Artest sent Amare Stoudemire plummeting to the Staples Center hardwood with a clothesline flagrant foul, the New York Knicks realized their longtime rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers had acquired a pugnacious edge.
When the high-flying Knicks also couldn't make shots, they didn't even stand a puncher's chance against the champs.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, Andrew Bynum added 18 points and seven rebounds before getting ejected in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers mixed it up with the Knicks in their fourth straight victory, 109-87 Sunday night.
Pau Gasol had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who thoroughly dominated undersized New York in the paint and on defense. The Knicks didn't click all night, with the NBA's highest-scoring team making just 36 percent of its shots.
The second half got testy, with numerous hard fouls and arguments, highlighted by Artest dropping Stoudemire on a drive to the hoop late in the third quarter. Bryant and Stoudemire also exchanged angry words moments later.
``(It) wasn't really physical,' sniffed Bryant, who wore a Michael Vick jersey after the game. ``We're a little bigger than they are, so there was a lot of bumping going on, but it wasn't really physical. ... It feels like we're learning things. We did a much better job tonight defensively. Every game, it seems we're getting better.'
The Lakers have taken seven straight from the Knicks. Stoudemire scored 18 of his 23 points after halftime, but New York's three-game winning streak ended.
``I love it. I hope they keep it up,' Stoudemire said of the Lakers' tough play. ``All it does is fuel me and gets me going. I'm kind of glad, because the first half, it wasn't that physical. But the second half, it was, and I got going.'
Not quickly enough, though.
Wilson Chandler scored 19 points, while Los Angeles-area native Landry Fields and Raymond Felton added 12 points apiece for New York, which had beaten nine straight Western Conference opponents, even scoring 128 points in an impressive win over NBA-leading San Antonio five days ago.
``They really packed the paint and made us a perimeter team,' Fields said. ``Guys got a little chippy out there, but it's fun to play like that sometimes.'
Stoudemire didn't get his first field goal until midway through the second quarter, and he had just five points on 1-for-10 shooting at halftime. The Lakers were just too much down low, with 7-footers Bynum and Gasol dominating while New York native Lamar Odom added 13 points and a season-high 18 rebounds as Los Angeles outboarded the Knicks 61-42.
``I think we can definitely win a championship with this type of defense,' 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson said.
New York hasn't beaten Los Angeles since February 2007, but the cross-country rivals always have an intense atmosphere at their two annual meetings. Although the Lakers took a 16-point lead in the third quarter and coasted to a fairly easy victory, two near-fights put an edge on this game even before Bynum's ejection.
Artest was involved in both confrontations, playing with an edge he has shown only rarely during a disappointing season. Before he angered Stoudemire with his hard foul, Artest earned a technical foul in the first quarter for a scuffle with Shawne Williams, briefly putting his hand on Williams' throat before pulling it away.
Bynum then was tossed for just the second time in his career after a foul called against him by referee Leon Wood while defending Stoudemire. Bynum stepped into Wood's path with his arms outstretched while the official walked toward the scorers' table, earning the first technical foul - and when Bynum kept arguing, Wood tossed him.
``I just said, 'Are you serious?' That's all I said,' Bynum said.
The Lakers played their first game of the season without backup forward Matt Barnes, who tore cartilage in his right knee during Friday night's win over New Orleans. Artest will get more minutes in Barnes' absence, but he's having perhaps his worst professional season statistically, averaging career lows of 7.7 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Bryant appreciated Artest's provocative performance against the Knicks.
``That's one of the strengths of Ron's game, to be able to do something like that,' said Bryant, who got one of the Lakers' four technical fouls. ``It was a physical game, and we responded to the physicality of it.'
NOTES: The teams meet again at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11. ... Fields, born in Long Beach and schooled in Orange County, described his first road game against the Lakers as ``a little surreal.' ... New York's Bill Walker missed three consecutive free throws in the second quarter after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt. ... Fans near courtside included Lindsay Lohan, Adam Sandler, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee in full Knicks regalia, Chris Pine, Matthew Morrison, will.i.am, Simon Baker, Dax Shepard, Tom Arnold, Robert Wuhl, Ciara, Dr. Dre and Knicks great Bill Bradley.
The Associated Press News Service
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