Reporting from New York — See, it's not that hard to beat an Eastern Conference team.
On second thought, the Lakers defeated the finesse-oriented New York Knicks, not the rugged Cleveland Cavaliers, and even Friday's game was undecided until the fourth quarter.
That's when none other than Pau Gasol -- make that the recently maligned Pau Gasol -- took stock of the game, remembered getting stuck against Cleveland, and scored 10 points in the final 12 minutes of the Lakers' 115-105 victory at Madison Square Garden.
In a rare burst of emotion, he pounded his chest a couple of times after scoring on a finger roll and getting fouled with 4:03 to play. He even made the free throw, putting the Lakers up 107-95, pushing them to a 1-1 record on their eight-game trip.
"I can build on this and move on from the mess that happened [Thursday]," said Gasol, who finished with 20 points.
He missed two layups and two free throws in the final minute of the 93-87 loss to the Cavaliers and was almost invisible through three quarters Friday.
Then came the fourth quarter, which began with the Lakers trailing, 85-84, and ended with Gasol committed to writing a check for $20,000 after pledging earlier in the day to donate $1,000 per point toward Haiti earthquake relief.
All in all, it was another strange game for the visitors.
The old arena was electrified last season when Kobe Bryant scored 61 points, the most ever at Madison Square Garden. On Friday, though, Bryant went in for a breakaway dunk, lost his grip on the ball and had to drop it softly into the basket. Fans actually booed.
Bryant scowled at Gasol for a second consecutive game, this time a few minutes into the second quarter. Bryant was angry that Gasol didn't muscle away a couple of defenders after Bryant threw an entry pass to him down low. (A foul was called on Knicks guard Wilson Chandler after Bryant's pass was deflected, but Bryant cursed at Gasol and stuck out both his elbows, as if showing Gasol how to keep defenders at bay.)
"Pau's too nice. He's too nice of a guy," Bryant said. "And he's so intelligent I think he thinks too much. . . . I told him that, 'You're very intelligent, highly intelligent, and I think that's working against you right now because you're thinking about things too much. Just go out there and just let it hang out.' "
Gasol continued to have trouble at the free-throw line, making only six of 11 attempts.
"I keep saying I'm an 85% free-throw shooter this year and I'll make those free throws," said Gasol, who is now down to 82.3%. "Obviously, things like [Thursday] night affect you a little bit in your mind, but you've got to move on from them as soon as possible."
Bryant scored 27 points but endured another poor shooting night, making only eight of 24 shots. He then scoffed at the notion of taking time off to rest a broken right index finger, an injury suffered Dec. 11.
"I thought about it [briefly]," he said. "I have a break in two places. It's not going to go anywhere if I sit out. If I hit it, it's not going to break any more. It's just going to be sore. But the healing is still the same as if I sat out."
It also never entered his mind to try to match his scoring outburst last season in New York.
"I don't think the way that we're playing that we're ready for that type of situation," he said. "Pau's got to get going, Andrew [Bynum]'s got to get going. Other players have got to find a rhythm because I need them on this trip."
Bynum had 19 points but only two in the second half.
The Lakers won, unconvincingly, but Gasol played better, which was about all they could ask for after Thursday's debacle.