Stephon Marbury returned to the Knicks for the team's game at Staples Center against the Lakers, but he wasn't as sitting on his team's side of the floor. Marbury is still on New York's payroll, and is still considered to be banished from all team-related activities. But hey, it's a free country, right? So Marbury did what any other red-blooded American who's getting paid $21 million dollars to stay away from his co-workers would do: he bought a courtside seat for the game, and sat there near Spike Lee as his Knicks fell to the Lakers 116-114.
In the first half, you would have thought that the Lakers were more distracted by Marbury's presence than the Knicks were. New York came out and did what any self-respecting Mike D'Antoni team would do, and that's push the tempo and jack up a ton of three-pointers. After taking a franchise-high 37 three-point attempts the previous night against the Suns, the Knicks were on pace to break that record in L.A. by taking 22 threes in the first half alone against the Lakers. And they were hitting them, too: the Knicks led by 15 points at the half, while the Lakers did exactly what you can't do against this team, and that's take long three-pointers (and miss) early in the shot clock. Long misses lead to long rebounds, which continued to fuel the Knicks' tempo and helped them to put up 65 first half points, the most the Lakers have allowed in a half this season.
Whatever Phil Jackson might have said to the team at halftime must have worked though, as the Lakers started the third quarter with an 11-2 run that very quickly cut the lead to just six. It was a tight game the rest of the way, with the Lakers taking the lead for good with a little more than five minutes to play in the game.
Pau Gasol sat this one out with the flu, so Lamar Odom stepped into his familiar spot in the starting lineup, and put together a solid game. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes of play. Kobe Bryant was, well, himself: he poured in 28 points, while adding seven rebounds, six assists, and four steals.
The Lakers will take off for a fairly challenging road trip that will see them play four games in five nights against the likes of Miami, Orlando, and New Orleans, before traveling home in time to host the Celtics on Christmas Day. Phil Jackson said that the Christmas game is more of a gimmick than anything else, and when you look at the grueling schedule the Lakers will face before then, it's hard to disagree.