Instead of Bryant, Gasol and Fisher, the names that mattered most in the fourth quarter Thursday night at Staples Center were Blake, Barnes and Murphy.
Gut-check time became name-check time for the Lakers when their reserves helped secure a 99-82 victory over the New York Knicks.
Steve Blake hit a pair of three-pointers. Matt Barnes added a dunk and a three-pointer. Troy Murphy grabbed five rebounds.
The Lakers’ bench accounted for 15 of the team’s 19 points in the fourth quarter, thwarting the Knicks’ comeback bid. All told, the reserves combined for 40 points, with Blake collecting 11 and Metta World Peace and Jason Kapono adding nine apiece.
“I need a calculator to add up all the points we had from our bench,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said, “and for me, that’s extremely exciting, especially in a shortened season.”
Kapono got the quarter off to a rousing start for the bench when he made a 15-foot jumper, extending back to double digits a lead that had dwindled by the end of the third quarter. Blake later followed with his three-pointers, the second of which gave the Lakers a 19-point lead.
Soon, starters Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were headed to the bench for the final minutes and the Lakers finished the game with a lineup that included four reserves along with starter Devin Ebanks.
“Our bench did a great job really holding us in defensively, getting steals, creating havoc and obviously scoring the ball in transition,” said Bryant, who scored all of his 28 points in the first three quarters.
The only Lakers starters to score in the fourth quarter were forward Josh McRoberts, who took an alley-oop feed from Gasol for a layup, and Gasol, who made a putback.
Murphy had five of his seven rebounds in his eight fourth-quarter minutes, drawing praise from Brown. But the reserve forward who finished with four points acknowledged afterward that he was still feeling his way on offense after joining the team late in training camp.
“To be honest I don’t know all the places to be,” Murphy said, “but I know I can have effort on the glass, so I just try and bring that every night until where I learn to go offensively.”
World Peace continued to thrive in his transition from starter to sixth man, saying he had become a focal point of opposing teams’ defenses.
“They’re doubling me every time,” said World Peace, who has averaged 14 points in the last three games. “Once I catch it, they’re coming before I even dribble the ball and that’s not normal with a bench.”
The Lakers’ bench combined to make seven of 11 three-point shots during the game, with Kapono making both of his attempts and Blake converting three of five. Brown said that kind of accuracy could help the Lakers long after Thursday.
“If I was coaching and we were about to play the Lakers for the next few games, that’s something that goes on the scouting report—they’ve got shooters,” Brown said.
“And so what does that mean? Their defenders are going to stay a little bit closer to them and that’s going to open up our inside game and that’s going to open up driving lanes. So even if guys don’t necessarily make shots that they made tonight, they’re starting to set a precedent or a reputation for themselves as becoming very good shooters.”