NEW YORK Kobe Bryant scored 39 points, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the New York Knicks 95-90 Sunday.
Bryant added 11 rebounds and eight assists in his first game at Madison Square Garden in nearly two years. His 3-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter allowed him to reach the milestone at 29 years, 122 days.
Before him, only Wilt Chamberlain (29, 134) and Michael Jordan (29, 326) had gotten there before turning 30.
Bryant's last basket came in the final minute after the Knicks had trimmed a 25-point deficit to one. The victory capped a 3-1 road trip for the Lakers, who headed home to host Phoenix on Christmas Day.
Jamal Crawford scored 31 points for the Knicks, who were again without Stephon Marbury and have lost two straight and eight of 10. David Lee had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Nate Robinson scored 16 points.
Despite a sometimes sloppy effort that included no assists in the second quarter, the Knicks were spared the usual wrath of their fans, who instead seemed content to cheer Bryant and Andrew Bynum, a New Jersey product.
In fact, fans cheered when Bryant had to get off the bench to return to the game early in the fourth quarter after the Knicks closed within single digits. Sasha Vujacic then made a 3-pointer and Jordan Farmar knocked down a jumper, seemingly putting Los Angeles back in control at 80-68 with 9:45 to play.
But Crawford scored nine straight points for New York, and two free throws by Lee cut the Lakers' lead to 91-90 with 1:55 remaining. Crawford later missed with a chance to give New York what would have been its first lead, and Bryant's soft jumper fell in with 57 seconds left.
The Knicks had a final chance, but Farmar stole Lee's tipped inbounds pass and went in for a clinching dunk.
Bynum had 13 points for the Lakers, playing without starting forward Luke Walton (sprained right ankle).
Bryant was back at Madison Square Garden, which he has called his favorite place to play, for the first time since Jan. 31, 2006. He missed last season's visit after he was suspended a game by the NBA earlier that day for striking San Antonio's Manu Ginobili in the face in the Lakers' previous contest.
Bryant scored 12 points in the first quarter, helping the Lakers open a 31-21 lead, then became more of a playmaker in the second. He had five assists in the period, the last coming on former Knicks forward Trevor Ariza's 3-pointer at the buzzer that made it 55-37.
Along with their no assists, the Knicks had seven turnovers in the period, drawing boos when Quentin Richardson threw the ball over the head of a wide-open Crawford on what should have been an easy breakaway.
The Lakers' lead grew to 25 in the third quarter, but the Knicks were within 75-61 headed to the fourth.
Notes: Bryant became the 31st player with 20,000 points. Though Bryant told reporters Saturday that the Knicks were one of the four teams he would have accepted a trade to, both coaches downplayed New York's chances. Phil Jackson said there were no serious talks before the season, and Isiah Thomas added, "I never sincerely thought that the Lakers would trade him." ... Thomas said before the game he isn't sure when Marbury will return. The point guard has missed seven of the last eight games as he copes with the Dec. 2 death of his father.