NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points and the New York Knicks spoiled what might have been Kobe Bryant‘s last game at Madison Square Garden, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 99-95 on Sunday.
Bryant finished with 18 points, far off the 30.7 per game he had been averaging here and fewer than half the 40 or more he managed on three occasions during a series of highlights in the arena.
The 37-year-old superstar, who hasn’t said if he will retire after this season, missed two shots and twice fouled Anthony during New York’s 11-0 run that turned a three-point deficit into a 98-90 lead.
Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez and Langston Galloway all scored 14 points for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game losing streak with their first home victory of the season.
Galloway made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:01 left and Bryant missed from behind the arc about 20 seconds later. He then fouled Anthony, who made both free throws to make it 94-90, and later fouled him again on a jumper as the lead grew to 98-90.
Bryant played until the finish, waving his arm to the crowd as he exited into the tunnel to loud cheers.
He scored his first NBA point here on a free throw on Nov. 5, 1996, in his second game. He played in his first All-Star Game here in 1998, and scored 61 points here on Feb. 2, 2009, a record since surpassed by Anthony.
He slightly led Kevin Durant for the highest scoring average among active players, but in his first game here in three years, was just 6 for 19 from the field.
Bryant can’t deliver now the way he did in so many previous trips to New York as he battles his way back from a preseason calf injury, but plenty of fans wanted him to. He was serenaded with “MVP! MVP!” chants while shooting free throws and fans were noticeably bummed when he missed shots – which must’ve seemed strange to Anthony, who was often defending him.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher, Bryant’s friend and longtime teammate in Los Angeles, was ejected in the third quarter for arguing after rookie Kristaps Porzingis was called for fouling Bryant on a 3-point attempt.
Lakers: Bryant was held below 30 points for the second time in his last nine trips to MSG. … Roy Hibbert also scored 18 points.
Knicks: Calderon came into the game shooting 25 percent for the season. … Lopez played a few possessions with only one sneaker after it fell off while he was playing defense and play didn’t stop to give him a chance to get it back. … Porzingis had 12 points and 10 rebounds.