You can bet that the whiteboard in the Lakers' locker room before their matchup with the Knicks on Thursday night will say something like this: "Take Away Their 3-Point Looks!!!"
Of course, that's easier said than done. Kobe Bryant knows how dangerous the Knicks have been from downtown this season, as they're shooting 40.9 percent -- third-best in the NBA.
"I think they’re playing fantastic," he said. "They’re very active on both ends of the floor. They’re shooting the ball extremely, extremely well and they’re just playing with a lot of energy."
Mike D'Antoni reiterated the concern in leaving the Knicks open on the outside.
"They're spreading the floor and one of the best things they do is not turn it over and they shoot 3s," he said. "Those are two big stats that win and they do it the best in the league."
Tonight's game features the two best scorers in the league right now, Bryant (29.2 points per game) and Carmelo Anthony (27.7). During an ESPN interview that aired on Wednesday, Bryant said Melo is the toughest for him to guard and he's finally found a groove in New York this season.
"It’s been brewing for him," he said. "I think with him, it’s just being in the right situation. He’s really found himself in the right situation with players that allow him to be him and to play to his strengths. You’re just seeing what I’ve been seeing for a long time."
Bryant also commented on D'Antoni's return to New York after he resigned from the Knicks last March. Bryant said his coach will be received "in a celebratory fashion" by the fans. He even joked that he needed to deliver a victory for D'Antoni after what he did to his Knicks back on Feb. 2, 2009.
"Considering the last time D'Antoni was coaching here, and I was here and I gave him 61," he said, "yeah, I owe him a win here."
Bryant said he "loves" playing at the Garden.
"It’s the mecca of basketball," he said. "This is the spot. I always enjoy coming here."
While it's likely many Knicks fans will boo D'Antoni when he's announced to the crowd, remembering in their eyes what a lousy coach he was, Bryant has "a lot of confidence" in him that he'll turn things around for the Lakers. Under D'Antoni, they're 4-8.
"He’s a very intelligent basketball coach," Bryant said. "I have no doubts that he’ll figure this thing out. But it’s been fun playing for him. Aside from, you know, the losses."
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