Lakers bounce back the big way

LeBron James
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers heads for the net in the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 22, 2020 in New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - LeBron James started hot and Anthony Davis found his groove Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from an embarrassing loss to the Boston Celtics with a 100-92 win over the Knicks in New York.

James scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half and Davis scored 17 of his game-high 28 in the second, continuing to improve in his second game back from a five-game absence because of a bruised backside.

It was a welcome return to form for the NBA Western Conference leaders, who endured their worst defeat of the season on Monday in a 139-107 loss to the Celtics in Boston.

''Obviously the one in Boston we didn't come to play at all, no way, shape or form,'' Davis said. ''We try not to lose two in a row, we bounced back tonight with a great win against a hungry team.

''We just want to make sure we keep playing Laker basketball, keep playing defensively, keep pushing the pace offensively.

''When we do those things we're a tough team to beat.''

The Lakers, who improved to 35-9, had 13 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 10 from Kyle Kuzma.

James connected on eight of 10 shots in 17 minutes in the first half, but the Lakers were 48-48 at halftime against a Knicks team that is third from bottom in the East.

Although he had a quiet second half in terms of scoring, James came up with four of his five steals after the break.

''It was a slow-paced game so defensive stops were very key to our success tonight,'' James said. ''I tried to start off the game being aggressive and I was able to get myself going. AD was able to facilitate down the stretch and it was good basketball.''

Meantime, New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson flashed some brilliance in his long-awaited NBA debut Wednesday, but the San Antonio Spurs spoiled the party at Smoothie King Center with a 121-117 victory over the Pelicans.

Williamson, who was the number one overall draft pick in June, offered a tantalizing glimpse of what's to come in his career when he exploded for 17 points in little more than three minutes in the fourth quarter.

The 19-year-old sensation had been sidelined since arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on the eve of the Pelicans' season-opener in October.

He made a tentative start, scoring just five points with four rebounds, one assist four turnovers in less than 12 minutes on the floor over the first three quarters.

With 8:52 remaining and the Spurs up 99-91, Williamson connected with a three-pointer from the top of the key that ignited the crowd of 18,365.

He followed up with an alley-oop layup, fed by Lonzo Ball, drained a trey and put back his own miss with a spinning layup before adding two more three-pointers.

The crowd was chanting ''M-V-P!'' as he capped the burst with a free-throw, but he was soon subbed out of the game as Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry stuck to the plan of playing Williamson only in short bursts.

''I think what you saw there is a taste,'' Gentry said. ''There's a lot of potential there.''

He said he'd counseled Williamson at halftime to be more aggressive, and he was pleased to see him deliver.

''I think there's a really, really high ceiling that he can reach, and he can reach it soon,'' added Gentry, who nevertheless was impervious to the cries of ''We want Zion'' from fans late in the fourth quarter.