There's nothing like the bright lights of New York City to bring out the best in you.
LeBron James put on a show, scoring 33 points, but the Los Angeles Lakers inexplicably lost to the New York Knicks, 124-123, on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
If the Lakers are intentionally seeking a lottery pick, they certainly played the part on a Sunday afternoon in New York, as they led by double-digits with three minutes remaining before a shocking collapse handed the Knicks the win.
Los Angeles led 122-111 with just over three minutes remaining in the game, but the Knicks stepped up their defense on LeBron, and closed the contest on a 13-1 run to steal the victory, and guarantee a season sweep against the Lakers.
"We didn't close possesions. We made them miss and they got rebounds," James said to the media about the Knicks late rally. "We didn't make enough shots obviously down the stretch. We had all the chances in the world to win the game, but they made the plays down the stretch and won the game."
After over 45 minutes of brilliant basketball with a lot of ball movement and unselfish play, the Lakers seemed to settle for isolation ball with LeBron down the stretch, including the final possession of the game.
"I think the last 3 minutes of the game we got real stagnant," said Lakers' forward Kyle Kuzma of the lack of ball movement. "I think that's the biggest thing [on why they lost]."
With the shot clock turned off, and the Lakers down by a point, LeBron dribbled at the top of the key until the game clock went under ten seconds and then he made his move. James drove to his left, but his final shot was blocked by Mario Hezonja to seal the victory for the Knicks.
"I was looking for a good look, and it was good D [defense] by Mario," said James of the final shot.
His coach, Luke Walton, was criticized for not calling a timeout and drawing up a play, but after the game, the Lakers leader said the result would have been the same regardless.
"It doesn't really me matter if I draw up a play and call a timeout, because the play is going to be get the ball in the hands of LeBron," said Walton.
The Lakers have had a lot of head-scratching losses this season, but getting swept by the NBA's worst team is simply inexcusable.
After sitting out the team's last game against the Pistons on Friday, James put on a show at the Garden on Sunday.
James finished with eight assists, but none was better than this no-look bounce pass to Johnathan Williams early in the game.
Late in the game, as the Lakers momentarily appeared to be pulling away, James threw down a rim-rattling hammer dunk on a breakaway that brought the Knicks crowd to their feet.
Kyle Kuzma had 18 points and eight assists, Reggie Bullock had 14, and JaVale McGee chipped in 12.
"We got the ball in our best player's hands and we tried to make him make the right decisions," Kuzma said of the final play of the game. "We just try and live with it."
Both Williams and Alex Caruso scored 12 points off the bench, but the 25-year-old out of Texas A&M easily had his best defensive game of the season with five steals and three blocks.
"AC came in and played with great energy. He does all the little things for us," said Lakers' point guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with five rebounds and five assists. "He's very active. I thought he was going to have to leave in an ambulance today. He took a lot of falls, but that's how he plays the game. He plays hard and you want a guy like that on your team."
Similarly to the Lakers, the Knicks are limping into the final few weeks of the season with nothing but the hope of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft to keep them excited about the future.
Nevertheless, that didn't stop the Knicks from stealing a win from the jaw's of defeat and snapping a nine-game losing streak in the process.
Emmanuel Mudiay led the Knicks with 28 points and eight assists. Damyean Dotson had 25 points, Kevin Knox finished with 19, Mario Hezonja added 17, and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 17 rebounds as all five starters scored in double figures for New York.
Thanks to Jordan, the Knicks outrebounded the Lakers, 45-35, including 35-20 on the defensive end.
The Knicks success could be credited to the Lakers paltry defense with allowed New York to shoot nearly 60 percent (58) from the field for the game.
New York also shot over 46 percent from beyond the arc, compared to just 26 percent for Los Angeles.
The Lakers may have been a bit fatigued down the stretch as they were playing their fourth consecutive game on the road and third game in four days with a lot of travel in between.
Notes and Next
Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain), Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness), Lance Stephenson (illness) and Brandon Ingram (shoulder) all missed the game due to injuries. Dennis Smith Jr. did not suit up for the Knicks.
The Lakers will travel to Milwaukee where they will face the team with the NBA's best record in the Bucks. Tip-off is Tuesday at 5:00PM.