Lakers center Andrew Bynum pleads his case to referee Leon Wood after he… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)
For all the claims they are too old, slow and uninterested, the Lakers lobbed a series of counterarguments Sunday at their critics.
Suddenly motivated and surprisingly feisty, the Lakers thumped the New York Knicks and their fleet of young feet amid a tangle of technical fouls, flagrant fouls and a rare ejection for Andrew Bynum.
After the final seconds drained off the clock without anybody getting sent for mug shots and fingerprinting, the Lakers emerged with a 109-87 victory at Staples Center.
The Knicks came into the game scoring a league-high 108 points a game but were rejected at almost every turn by the Lakers.
In fact, the Lakers have been employing a new twist to their defense, telling their big men to stay closer to the basket and funneling perimeter players to the baseline instead of toward their 7-footers in the key, as has been the custom the last few years.
It seems to be working. The Lakers' big men are staying out of foul trouble, their perimeter players are being held more accountable instead of simply forcing their man into the middle, and the Knicks shot a woeful 36%.
"I think we can definitely win a championship with this type of defense," Phil Jackson said before couching it with the fact it came against the undersized Knicks. "There's still a little ways to go before I think we perfect that, if there is such a thing as perfecting a defense."
Good thing the Lakers (27-11) decided to play defense. They couldn't hit many shots themselves, making 41.8%. Kobe Bryant had 27 points on 10-for-28 shooting and Pau Gasol had 20 points but made only five of 13 shots.
Bynum, however, had 18 points on eight-for-15 shooting.
The Lakers aren't known to be tough guys, but they carried an edge throughout the game.
Bryant showed up in a dour mood and even tossed some expletives at locker-room attendants who teased him about his hometown Philadelphia Eagles' playoff loss to Green Bay earlier in the day.
It wasn't surprising when he got hit with a technical foul in the second quarter after jawing at referees for not calling a foul on one of his shots.
Bryant, who wore a Michael Vick jersey after the game while talking to reporters, has seven technical fouls and is edging closer to 16, which would draw a one-game suspension.
Ron Artest had a technical foul in the second quarter and a flagrant foul in the third.
Then Bynum got ejected in the fourth quarter while protesting a foul call by referee Leon Wood.
Bynum often complains about foul calls but added extra animation and actually made contact briefly with Wood while holding out his arms. Bynum thought he legitimately blocked Amare Stoudemire's shot on the play.
"I said, 'Are you serious?' I don't know if it really warrants a technical or a double technical at that," Bynum said. "I'm pretty surprised. You can watch the telecast. You can read my lips. I'm saying, 'Are you serious?' He's a grown man so I don't know if I showed him up or not."
Bynum hadn't been ejected since a December 2007 game against San Antonio.
"[Wood] wouldn't acknowledge me. I asked him a question and he kind of like put his head down like a bad Lab or something," Bynum said, alluding to a Labrador.
The Knicks (21-15) suffered in part because they were without injured sharp-shooter Danilo Gallinari. Neither Stoudemire (23 points, seven-for-24 shooting) nor Raymond Felton (12 points, four-for-14 shooting) could carry them.
The Lakers outrebounded the Knicks, 61-42, and crushed them in second-chance points, 28-9.
Lamar Odom's rebounding was impressive enough that actor Denzel Washington wandered over to the nearby media section and asked how many the power forward officially collected (18).
Bynum bludgeoned the Knicks down low, most notably a forceful dunk over Stoudemire in the third quarter. His scoring chart looked like it took place in pre-game layup lines: tip-in, tip-in, dunk, dunk, tip-in, three-foot jump shot, two-foot hook, dunk.
Gasol didn't shoot well but got to the free-throw line often and made 10 of 11. Gasol might have turned the corner, Jackson said, after a ragged December in which he shot 49% on field goals.
"I think he got a little bit numb playing a lot of minutes," Jackson said. "Now that it's shortened minutes, I think it's really helping him be more energetic out there on the floor."