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Kobe Bryant enjoys the big stage

NEW YORK -- Kobe Bryant finished the night with a black knit cap pulled snug over his head, a black jacket buttoned up his chest, and black pants and black shoes covering his lower half as he made his way out of the Mecca of Basketball to disappear into the cold New York night.

The outfit looked like something a Broadway stagehand might wear, totally nondescript and inconspicuous to allow the worker to do his job without fanfare and without stealing any eyes from the show.

Bryant's postgame attire might not have suggested it, but he was the star once again Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

He finished with more points (33) and rebounds (10) than any other player, and he did it in only three quarters, watching the final period of the Los Angeles Lakers' 113-96 rout of the New York Knicks comfortably from the bench.

Maybe it wasn't as spectacular as his 61-point outing at the Garden two seasons ago when he set the building record for most points by an opponent, passing Michael Jordan's 55, but it was most definitely a showman putting on a show.

It's not the Knicks that get it out of him. They haven't made the playoffs in seven years and came into Friday having lost 10 of their previous 15 games since the Lakers last beat them in January. It's not the celebrities in attendance, either. Staples Center is always filled with A-listers, and out of the two biggest names sitting courtside, Bryant already had filmed a documentary starring himself with one (Spike Lee) and can be seen on a 60-foot billboard with the other (Kanye West) just a block from the arena in NYC.

So what is it?

"More than anything, it's just the history of the building itself," Bryant said. "I think that's something that kind of has a magical feel to it."

If his 61-point game was like a winning role for best actor in a full-game performance, Bryant's 19-point first quarter was worthy of best supporting consideration.

He made his first six shots -- two free throws, three 3-pointers and another jumper -- and finished the quarter 7-for-9 from the field as he beat the buzzer with a turnaround shot to put L.A. up 30-28.

The only thing he didn't include from his offensive repertoire in the first-quarter flurry was a dunk, and really, when you have Shannon Brown on your team, you might as well leave the dunking to him anyway.

Even Pau Gasol, who bristles when Bryant takes a disproportionate role in the offense, couldn't help but marvel at Bryant's display.

"When he gets it going like that, you have to let it ride," Gasol said. "If he kept going like that all game long, he'd score over 100."

It was like shooting fish in a barrel for Bryant. First he had rookie Landry Fields guarding him. If Fields' inexperience wasn't enough of a disadvantage, his upbringing idolizing Bryant while playing at Los Alamitos High School in Southern California certainly was. He was wearing Bryant's signature sneakers while trying to defend him. There was no chance.

Then it was Danilo Gallinari's chance. The only challenge he presented Bryant was to see whether the Lakers guard remembered how to trash-talk in Italian. "I was asking him what the hell is he guarding me for, he doesn't want to be over here," Bryant said.

Raymond Felton next took the assignment. Even though Felton has been having an All-Star-type season, he's 6-foot-1. Bryant is 6-6 and just shot over him.

"This is a guy that loves to play in the big sights," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He likes the audience, he likes the attention and he rises to the occasion."

Bryant claimed after the game that it wasn't his plan to take over offensively but when the Knicks took an early eight-point lead, he wanted to take their crowd out of it.

"I know if I knock down two or three shots in a row, everybody all of the sudden is thinking it's going to be one of those nights and it takes momentum away from them," Bryant said. "So that's all I try to do."

Jackson joked that Bryant just wanted to make amends for his two early turnovers.

"I think he was frustrated that he made mistakes with the basketball," Jackson said. "And he said, 'What the heck, I've been passing the ball and it's being intercepted. ... So I better shoot the ball here and carry my end of the stick probably before Phil is going to take me out and put me on the bench.'"

But Brown, who admitted to being inspired by Bryant's focus to offer up a special performance of his own with a pair of jaw-dropping dunks on the Garden stage, told a different story.

"Kob' is one of those guys who tries to keep it real straight faced, but he definitely had something going on in the back of his brain that he's not going to tell nobody about," Brown said. "But then, when he starts doing his thing, you're like, 'Yup, I figured that.'"

Who knows how many more nights like this one he has left at the Garden. He's under contract with the Lakers for three more years after this one, but next season could be shortened, if not lost completely, if there's a lockout. Plus, there's always a chance his deteriorating right knee could cause him to miss a date at MSG down the line, or there could be a freak suspension like the one that caused him to miss the game in 2007.

Bryant didn't top 50 or set any records Friday, but he proved his point.

He's still the best show out there.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.