Rapid Reaction: Lakers 113, Knicks 96

WHAT IT MEANS: Kobe Bryant and the rest of the boys from Tinseltown took over Madison Square Garden on Friday night, trouncing the struggling Knicks in a 113-96 laugher.

The Knicks have lost 11 of their past 15, falling back to .500 for the first time since they were 9-9 on Nov. 28. This one wasn't close from the second quarter on, as the Lakers took a 17-point just before halfime and never looked back.

The Knicks couldn't contain Bryant all night. The man who owns the Garden scoring record (61 points) owned the Garden again on Friday, finishing with 33 points and 10 rebounds in only 29 minutes of action. The Knicks are 5-12 since they lost to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 9. They've lost eight straight to Phil Jackson and co.

TURNING POINT: The Knicks trailed by double-digits throughout the night thanks to Bryant's efforts, but the Knicks made things a little interesting midway through the third quarter. After missing their first 10 shots of the third and falling behind by 18, the Knicks cut the Lakers' lead to nine with 5:42 to play in the quarter. But Bryant hit a turnaround nine-footer, a 3-pointer and a running hook in the next 4:24 to push the lead back to 14.

DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Beside's Bryant's efficient night (12-for-17 from the field, 4-for-7 from 3-point land), the Lakers also got strong performances out of Pau Gasol (20 points, six rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (12 points, nine rebounds). Amare Stoudemire led the Knicks with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Raymond Felton added 20 points.

TECHINICAL DIFFICULTIES: Stoudemire picked up his 14th technical foul of the season late in the third quarter. He collided with Bryant near the basket and was whistled for a personal foul. He then argued demonstratively with officials and picked up a T. Stoudemire is now tied for the league lead in techs with Dwight Howard. Two more, and Stoudemire will serve an automatic one-game suspension, per league rules. He will be suspended for one game for every two technicals he picks up thereafter. He has had two technical fouls rescinded this season, the most recent coming on Monday, when the league took back the T he picked up on Sunday against the Sixers.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Knicks travel to Newark to take on the Nets for the second installment of the Hudson River rivalry. A loss to the Nets would put the Knicks under .500 for the first time since Nov. 27, when they fell to 8-9 after a home loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Nets are 7-6 since Mikhail Prokhorov declared that the team was not pursuing a trade for Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks are 4-8 in the same time period, and both Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have admitted that the trade rumors have affected their players. The Knicks' young players need to figure out how to block them out. They have three more games to play before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.