Lakers vs Denver: Lakers fall to Nuggets
The Lakers and Nuggets, the two teams playing the best basketball in the NBA, gave the fans something to see Sunday.
Denver pulled out the victory, improving to 15-4 since the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.
The Lakers had gone 17-1 since the All-Star break and had a nine-game winning streak along with that.
The winning streak was snapped and it meant that the Lakers fell 2 1/2-games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who easily defeated Phoenix earlier Sunday, for the best record in the NBA.
Down 89-83 after Kenyon Martin scored, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson called a timeout withh 3:23 left.
The Lakers had just turned the ball over two times in a row, both times by Pau Gasol.
The Lakers then went down by eight points, 91-83.
But the Lakers asnwered with two scores, pulling to within 91-87, and then dug down on defense yet again.
They got a stop with 50 seconds left, forcing the Nuggets into a 24-clock violation.
But Kobe Bryant missed a shot, his pull-up baseline jumper hitting the side of the backboard.
After Wilson Chandler made one of two free throws for a 92-87 Denver lead, Lamar Odom made a three-pointer to pull the Lakers to within 92-90 with 15 seconds left.
The thing that killed the Lakers was after Nene missed the second of two free throws, Kenyon Martin out-hustled Odom for the rebound, scoring on a put-back with 11 seconds left for a 95-90 Nuggets lead.
Lakers 69, Nuggets 69 (end of third quarter)
When Pau Gasol went down hard after being fouled by Nene early in the third quarter Sunday afternoon at Staples Center, it didn't look good for the Lakers.
Gasol's right knee buckled when he landed awkwardly after he scored and was fouled by Nene.
The Lakers called a timeout, allowing time for trainer Gary Vitti to check on Gasol.
Gasol returned to the court after the timeout to shoot his free throw, but he went to the locker room with Vitti soon afterward.
But with 4:41 left in the third, Gasol came back to the Lakers' bench and with 4:11 left in the quarter he entered the game to replace Andrew Bynum.
Gasol had 14 points and 10 rebounds through three quarters.
Lakers 47, Nuggets 40 (end of first half)
The Lakers put together a strong defensive effort in the second quarter, allowing them to open a seven-point halftime lead.
Kobe Bryant had 19 points on six-for-19 shooting in the first half. Pau Gasol has eight points and nine rebounds while Andrew Bynum has six points and 12 rebounds.
The Lakers defense held the Nuggets to 29.5% shooting in the half.
Danilo Gallinari is the only Denver player in sync on offense, making five of 10 shots for 18 points. The Nuggets' point guard tandem of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton is zero for 10 shooting from the field.
Nuggets 21, Lakers 20 (end of first quarter)
For two teams playing so well entering Sunday's game at Staples Center, the Lakers and Nuggets did not look like hot teams.
Neither team shot the ball well.
The Lakers shot only 36% from the field in the first quarter. The Nuggets shot only 34.8% from the field.
Kobe Bryant was two-for-nine shooting from the field.
Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with nine points on three-for-seven shooting.
The Lakers aren't the only team in the NBA playing well these days.
The Denver Nuggets also have put people on notice with their play.
Since they traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, the Nuggets have gone 14-4.
"Sometimes when you lose a superstar, the ball doesn't stop," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "It keeps moving. ... They share the ball and they share the scoring and nobody is trying to do more than just their role."
The Lakers are 17-1 since the All-Star break, and they have a nine-game winning streak.
The Lakers and Nuggets play today at Staples Center, making it an interesting matchup between two teams playing very good basketball.
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has his shot challenged by Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler in the first half Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire