Kobe scores 40 in win over Knicks, averages 43.4 for January

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chants of "MVP!" "MVP" rained down from the Madison Square Garden crowd as Tuesday night's game was ending.

Kobe Bryant gave the New York fans something to cheer about during a dismal season.

Bryant scored 40 points, despite being held to one field goal in the second half, to cap off his sensational month and lead the Los Angeles Lakers over the frustrated Knicks 130-97.

Bryant sparked two early runs, then spent the rest of the game leading a parade of Lakers to the foul line. He was 7-of-17 from the field and 23-of-26 at the line before heading to the bench with 5½ minutes to go and waiting for the applause from the New York crowd.

"It feels good," said Bryant, who on Monday called Madison Square Garden his favorite place to play. "It lets me know they appreciate what I do out there on the floor."

It's hard not to appreciate Bryant after what he did in January.

The NBA's leading scorer averaged 43.4 points in 13 games, highlighted by his 81-point outing, which was the second-best scoring game in NBA history. He joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to average 40 or more points in a month more than once, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Chamberlain, whose 100-point game is the only one better than Bryant's career-best outing, did it 11 times. Bryant also averaged 40.6 points in February 2003.

Not everyone was so impressed. Bryant said a ballboy told him he was "slacking tonight" after scoring only 40 points.

"It's easy," teammate Smush Parker joked. "No, Kobe Bryant is a great player. It's incredible. It's fun to play with him, it's fun to play in the backcourt with him."

Elgin Baylor is the only other player to average 40 in a month.

Rookie reserve Andrew Bynum went 7-for-7 for a career-high 16 points, Parker added 15 points and Chris Mihm had 14 for the Lakers, who were 43-of-58 from the line. The Knicks were 20-of-24.

"I just think they came out and played much harder than we did," said Herb Williams, who finished up coaching the Knicks after Larry Brown was ejected. "And as a consequence they shot a lot of free throws."

Qyntel Woods scored 15 points and Quentin Richardson had 14 for the Knicks, who were called for five technical fouls -- two on Brown -- and a flagrant. New York has lost three straight and nine of 10, but at least the Knicks showed some fight after displaying little in a 120-101 loss at Atlanta on Monday night.

Antonio Davis provided the Knicks with an early spark in his first game since serving his five-game suspension for climbing into the stands during a game, scoring seven early points as the Knicks opened an 18-9 lead. Bryant then scored 14 points in a 22-4 spurt that gave the Lakers a 31-22 lead in the final minute of the quarter.

Bryant sat out the early part of the second quarter, then helped the Lakers blow open the game midway through the period. He scored the final seven points in a 12-0 run that extended a seven-point lead to a 49-30 advantage with 4:17 left in the half.

His layup a little more than a minute later made it 51-34, but he wouldn't make another field goal until a 3-pointer with 10½ minutes remaining in the game.

By then, the Knicks were fed up with watching Bryant and the rest of the Lakers parade to the foul line. Davis was called for a flagrant foul when he grabbed Bryant by the neck with 7:09 left in the third quarter, and New York's Channing Frye and Mihm were called for double technicals with 5:46 remaining in the quarter.

"I felt like they were frustrated and they have a reason to be frustrated," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Things didn't happen for them and it's a frustrating thing for these young kids."

Brown was ejected during a timeout following that play. Referee Steve Javie called a first technical on Brown, then a second and an automatic ejection after Brown continued to argue.

Brown then walked onto the floor right up to Javie to continue the argument before being pulled away.

Game notes
Bryant scored 82 points in two games against the Knicks this season. ... Lakers vice president and former star Magic Johnson got a loud ovation when he was shown on the overhead scoreboard. Johnson was with embattled Knicks president Isiah Thomas, who is being sued for sexual harassment by a former team employee. ... Davis was eligible to play Monday night in Atlanta but sat out with a sore lower back. ... Film director and Knicks fan Spike Lee showed what team he was supporting in another game: He was wearing the jersey of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward. ... Lakers starters Lamar Odom and Parker are native New Yorkers.

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