Denver 113, Los Angeles 86

DENVER, March 15 (AP) -- Phil Jackson got fined $50,000 for accusing the league of having a vendetta against Kobe Bryant and then lost a seventh straight game for the first time in his 16-year coaching career Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets 113-86.

Linas Kleiza scored a career-high 29 points and Carmelo Anthony had 26 as the Nuggets handed the Lakers their 13th loss in 16 games.

"That's great when you've got a guy coming off the bench contributing the way he has,'' Allen Iverson said of Kleiza, who scored 24 against Sacramento on Sunday. "He never cares about starting or anything like that. When his opportunity comes, he's just always ready.''

Kleiza shrugged off his career night:

"It was just one of those games where the shots were going down. Melo and Iverson were doing a great job sharing the ball,'' he said.

Kleiza was doing a great job putting it through the hoops, hitting 10-of-13 shots, including 5-of-6 from the arc.

Iverson couldn't have picked Kleiza out of a crowd when he came over from Philadelphia three months ago but said the second-year forward was the catalyst for the Nuggets' biggest win since the trade.

"I didn't know who he was when I got here, but a nationally televised game, I think a lot of people around the world know who he is now,'' Iverson said.

Iverson added 14 points and 13 assists and Marcus Camby had 11 points and 14 boards for the Nuggets, who moved into a tie with the Lakers for the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

Bryant's 25 points led the free-falling Lakers, who couldn't capitalize on the return of Luke Walton and Lamar Odom despite building a double-digit lead in a mostly stellar first half.

Anthony scored 10 points in a 24-10 run that Denver used to close the third quarter and take an 87-72 lead and turn the game into a blowout. Even the Nuggets, who have lost 10 games in which they led after three quarters, couldn't blow that big of a lead.

Camby's alley-oop dunk made it 92-72 and the Nuggets enjoyed a rare blowout at the Pepsi Center, where they are just 18-17.

Earlier in the day, Jackson and the Lakers were fined $50,000 apiece by the NBA after the coach said the league was conducting a "witch hunt'' against Bryant.

"I thought you only get fined for criticizing the officiating,'' Jackson said before tip-off. "They're the sacred cows. But I find out somebody else has a sacred cow somewhere else.''

Bryant recently received two one-game suspensions this season for striking players in the face after taking a shot. The league retroactively assessed Bryant with a flagrant foul for an elbow to Philadelphia's Kyle Korver last week, a play that didn't even draw a foul.

Bryant picked up three fouls in a 90-second span in the third quarter Thursday night while the Nuggets, who closed the first half on a 13-2 run, were pulling away.

"The third quarter it just caved in on us,'' Bryant said.

With Brian Cook (ankle) not making the trip, both Walton and Odom returned to the Lakers' lineup. Odom hadn't played since tearing the labrum in his left shoulder March 2 and Walton had been sidelined since spraining his right ankle Jan. 26.

They started along with Kwame Brown, who missed 27 games with a sprained ankle before returning March 2. He replaced 19-year-old Andrew Bynum at center. Walton had 13 points and Odom scored nine.

"Luke Walton ran out of gas and Lamar Odom is just not ready to play,'' Jackson said.

A winded Odom went scoreless after halftime.

"He didn't have a good second half,'' Jackson said. "He did a good job on Carmelo. He hit a couple of shots then and Kobe wanted to switch onto him.''

Said Odom: "I didn't have much tonight. The game took a lot out of me. I had some problems with Carmelo. It made sense to make the switch.''

Despite it all, Bryant saw glimpses of a looming recovery.

"With Lamar back, we saw flashes of what we're capable of in the first half,'' he said. "We just have to build on that and understand that that's the team we want to make noise with in the playoffs. We have to build with what we have here and Luke and Lamar need to get in basketball shape.

"When that happens we'll feel pretty good.''

Jackson will feel a lot better, too.

Notes: Cook is expected to miss two more games. ... Denver coach George Karl on the firing of friend Terry Stotts as Bucks coach: "I don't think he has done a bad job, he has been dealt bad cards.''

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