The Los Angeles Lakers remained perfect on their road trip by winning an NBA finals rematch against an ancient rival.
The Lakers may not have the same postseason history with the New York Knicks, but it's clear the teams' interconference rivalry is gaining steam again.
Los Angeles looks to beat New York for the eighth straight time Friday night when the teams meet at Madison Square Garden in a rematch of a game last month that got heated.
The Lakers (37-16) improved to 3-0 on their seven-game trip with a 92-86 win over Boston on Thursday. Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, including 20 in the second half, while Pau Gasol added 20 points and 10 rebounds to help Los Angeles salvage a season-series split with the team it defeated in last June's NBA finals.
The Lakers, who have held three of their last four opponents to fewer than 90 points, don't figure to be in danger of a letdown against New York after the teams' hard-fought meeting last month.
The Lakers have won seven straight over the Knicks, including a 109-87 home victory Jan. 9. Ron Artest was charged with a flagrant foul late in the third quarter when he clotheslined Amare Stoudemire. Andrew Bynum was later ejected, and Stoudemire and Bryant exchanged angry words.
Bryant downplayed the altercations.
"(It) wasn't really physical," he said. "We're a little bigger than they are, so there was a lot of bumping going on, but it wasn't really physical."
While there figures to be some extra intensity Friday night, Bryant has needed little additional motivation when visiting MSG. He's averaged 30.3 points there over his career -- his highest average at any venue where he's played at least 10 times -- including a 61-point performance Feb. 2, 2009. He scored 27 in last month's victory over New York at home.
While Los Angeles hopes it is heating up following a 3-5 stretch, the Knicks (26-25) have struggled since their loss at Staples Center. They have dropped 10 of 14, including three of their last four. They trailed by as many as 20 points Wednesday en route to a 116-108 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Knicks allowed the Clippers to shoot 54.7 percent -- the second-highest mark by a visiting team at MSG this season. New York is giving up an average of 108.2 points and allowing opponents to shoot 51.2 percent over the last six games.
"We're not playing hard, we're not getting loose balls. Seems like we're afraid out there," said Stoudemire, who had 23 points in Wednesday's loss. "I said it before the game. We've got to have supreme focus. I guess they figured I was just talking to the wall."
Stoudemire had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks against the Lakers last month, but shot just 7 of 23 from the field.