W2W4: Knicks vs. Lakers

The Knicks host the Lakers at Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m. and, for the first time in a long time, they're expected to win this particular matchup.

When was the last time you could say that?

Mike D'Antoni's club limps into town with a 9-13 record and a three-game losing streak. They are 4-8 since D'Antoni, the ex-Knicks coach, took over.

The Knicks (16-5) have won seven of eight. Here are a few things to watch during the game:

KOBE LOVES NYC: Kobe Bryant will be at his home away from home Thursday night.

He has an average of 34.6 points at Madison Square Garden since the beginning of the 1999-2000 season, including a 61-point game in 2009.

He said Tuesday that Carmelo Anthony is the toughest cover in the NBA, but the Knicks will have their hands full with Bryant. Jason Kidd, 39, is their starting shooting guard so, in theory, he'd be matched up against Bryant. But I'd be surprised if Ronnie Brewer and, possibly, J.R. Smith didn't spend significant time guarding Bryant on Thursday.

It might not be a bad thing for the Knicks if Bryant goes off, though -- the Lakers are 1-10 this season when he scores 30 or more and 8-3 when he scores fewer than 30.

D'ANTONI'S RETURN: The smart money says D'Antoni gets a cold reaction from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

D'Antoni went 121-167 during his 3½-year tenure with the Knicks and left in March after reportedly clashing with Anthony. But D'Antoni probably will draw the fans' ire because of recent comments he made to ESPN Los Angeles about his decision to leave Phoenix for New York in 2008.

"I shouldn't have gone to New York," he told Ramona Shelburne. "I should have stuck in there and battled. You don't get to coach somebody like him [Steve Nash] too many times. It's pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn't.

"I think we got frustrated and I got frustrated. That's why I left."

We understand D'Antoni's point, but that's not something the Garden crowd is going to just brush off.

It'll be interesting to see how Anthony, coming off of a 45-point game against Brooklyn, performs against his ex-coach. In his past three games, Anthony is averaging 34 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2 assists, and has hit 11 of 22 3-point attempts.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: We're in for a great center matchup Thursday -- Dwight Howard versus Tyson Chandler.

Chandler did a good job last season against Howard, who averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds against New York in three games.

Chandler enters play Thursday averaging 12.4 points and 9.9 rebounds. He's shooting 71 percent from the floor. Howard is averaging 18 points, 14 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this year.