By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - It may have been Lakers coach Phil Jackson's last NBA game at Madison Square Garden and the outcome was all too familiar to New York fans on Friday as Los Angeles routed the Knicks 113-96.
Kobe Bryant, a Knicks killer in the past, led all scorers with 33 points despite not playing in the fourth quarter. He made 12-of-17 shots from the floor, including 4-of-7 from three-point range and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
The 65-year-old Jackson, who has said this season will be his last, has seen the dominant Bryant take charge of a game many times before.
"Kobe had that great first quarter that kind of buoyed our effort," he told reporters. "We played a game where the rhythm was ours. After the first quarter we played the game at our tempo."
The Lakers (38-16), who led 30-28 after the first quarter, broke away with an 18-6 run early in the second quarter to open a 48-37 advantage and the twice defending NBA champions beat the Knicks (26-26) with ease.
He said this trip to the Big Apple had not been particularly nostalgic for him.
"I'm not prone to that," he told reporters.
"Just riding in the elevator makes you think, 'I don't want to be doing this anymore," the Montana native added, winning chuckles from others familiar with the cramped conditions.
"But I look at this place," he said, allowing a touch of whimsy to creep into his voice as he considered the excitement that can run through the Garden. "When it jumps, it really goes. This is a place that really does jump as an arena."
The brilliant display by Bryant brought cheers from a noisy Lakers contingent in the stands, who also serenaded him with chants of "MVP, MVP" when he toed the free throw line.
Jackson said Bryant enjoyed playing in New York.
"This is a guy who really loves to play in the big sites," he said. "He likes the audience. He likes the attention. He rises to the occasion."
Asked what he was thinking about when he rode up the elevator for Friday night's game, Jackson said: "It doesn't smell like elephants."
The coach was alluding to smells of the circus that visits the Garden every year.
"I was actually thinking about the playoff games, the number of playoff games that the Bulls and the Knicks had, and that is the time when the elephant smell is in the building. And it's always a pleasure."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Peter Rutherford)