GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Denver Nuggets 19 29 23 26 97
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 30 24 25 24 103

Lakers hold off Nuggets, clinch playoff berth


Posted Apr 13 2012 10:13PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Andrew Bynum had 30 points and eight rebounds, Matt Barnes added a season-high 24 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff berth without Kobe Bryant or coach Mike Brown, holding off the Denver Nuggets 103-97 Friday night.

Pau Gasol had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacific Division-leading Lakers (38-22), who have won three of four without Bryant. The NBA scoring leader is resting his bruised shin.

Los Angeles also played without Brown, who left Staples Center shortly before tipoff for undisclosed personal reasons. Assistant coach John Kuester ran the team.

Barnes played an enormous game in a reserve role while matching his highest-scoring performance in two seasons with the Lakers. He scored six consecutive points after Denver trimmed Los Angeles' lead to one point, hitting a 3-pointer and adding a clutch jumper with 1:29 to play.

Andre Miller scored 20 points and Al Harrington added 18 for the Nuggets, who had won five of seven. Arron Afflalo also had 18 for Denver, which is hanging on to a playoff spot.

Los Angeles led for all but the opening minutes, going up 87-75 with 9:25 left. Denver trimmed the lead to one point with a 15-4 run capped by Harrington's 3-pointer with 3:38 left, but Barnes hit a clutch 3-pointer and added a free throw and a jumper before throwing a phenomenal half-court alley-oop to Bynum in the final minute.

Despite committing 23 turnovers, the Lakers took three of four from Denver to win the season series after the Nuggets took it in each of the past two years. With six games left, Los Angeles is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers for the division lead and the No. 3 playoff seed.

Kuester filled in when Brown left Staples Center after his regular media briefing about 75 minutes before game time. Bryant also moved up next to the assistant coaches, yelling out advice and strategy.

Bryant is no longer wearing a protective boot. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history is walking without pain, but must run and jump without pain before he'll return.

Bryant has built a career on playing through any amount of pain, but with the Lakers comfortably in the playoff picture, he apparently feels he can take a brief rest from the compacted regular season. Brown wouldn't speculate on how long Bryant will sit, saying they'll re-evaluate his injury before Sunday's game against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Bryant hadn't missed a game all season before his current week off, and he has missed just 99 games in his 16 NBA seasons. He is closing in on his third scoring title with 28.1 points per game, slightly ahead of Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, who won the last two scoring crowns.

The Lakers started well without Bryant, picking up from their emphatic road win over San Antonio by jumping to a 14-point lead in the first quarter. Barnes scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first half, including a rainbow jumper at the buzzer.

Denver kept it close with relentless attention to Bynum, who had 30 rebounds against the Spurs.

NOTES: The Lakers have missed the playoffs just five times in their 64 years of existence, just twice in 33 years under owner Jerry Buss. ... Wilson Chandler missed his seventh straight game for Denver with a strained left hip, while Rudy Fernandez is still sidelined with a strained lower back. ... Kuester also coached the Lakers in February while Brown served a one-game suspension. Kuester was the Detroit Pistons' head coach for the past two seasons before getting fired last June. ... Barnes got a technical foul with 2:24 left for arguing a call, but Afflalo missed a free throw that would have cut the Lakers' lead to three points with the ball.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets Friday, April 13th at Staples Center at 7:30PM. Catch all the action on Fox Sports West and 710ESPN.


View More Photos

Points Bynum 30, 11-19
Rebounds Gasol 10, 3 OFF 7 DEF
Assists Sessions 6
Steals World Peace 5
Blocks Bynum/Gasol 3


John Kuester:

Lakers assistant coach John Kuester opening statement:
“Getting into two things, one is being a family and one of the things about our team is, I see this growth and maturity as a group. They have worked extremely hard, they care about one another and it’s also those type of feelings are poured out on the floor. You can tell that these guys went out tonight and wanted to represent Mike Brown as best they could and that’s what they did. But I was very proud of our group. I thought we played hard, we played with energy. Denver and us are both fighting for spots and other then the turnover situation I thought we really did a nice job of sharing the basketball and making big plays at the end.”

Lakers assistant coach John Kuester on Kobe’s feedback to the team while on the bench:
“He was talking to the players and he was a calming influence. I think that was a huge part of him being on the bench and also suggesting certain situations that we should look at or look for. One of the things about it, again, I go back to being a family. You know everybody cares about each other and now all of a sudden you see guys pulling for one another in every situation.”

Lakers assistant coach John Kuester on Matt Barnes:
“I thought his energy was outstanding throughout the basketball game. Going in and knocking down those threes, hitting that two and making his foul shots. I was very pleased with his effort but again.”

Lakers assistant coach John Kuester on Metta World Peace:
“From the defensive standpoint, watching him as the season progressed, and not to say that he wasn’t in shape at the beginning of the season but to see him now in great shape and have the ability to guard one through four is an unbelievable attribute to have for a player. His demeanor in practice and during the game has been so impressive to me because I have never had the opportunity to coach him until this year. He’s meant a lot. His growth as a basketball player for us has been outstanding.”

Pau Gasol:

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on Andrew Bynum’s development:
“It’s a learning process. This is his first year that he pretty much played a full year. Pretty much all his numbers are up. He’s having a career year. He’s active and aggressive and it’s a learning process for him.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on what it was like playing without coach Mike Brown on the sidelines:
“It was a little different. Mike usually gets really involved in the game and he has a lot of energy on the sideline. It was little bit of a different look, but the assistant coaches stepped up and we played the way we needed to play to win the game.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on what the team has learned playing without Kobe the last couple games:
“You have to work hard, you have to play together and you have to play consistent for 48 minutes. When we play hard and when we play well as a team, a lot of good things happen for us. With or without Kobe, that’s something that’s standard for this team. It’s key for this team to be successful later on.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the team’s mindset the last couple games:
“The last couple games, I think we’ve stepped up and it’s good to see. We have to have that sense of urgency, we need to play with that kind of mindset every game. Otherwise, we fall quickly and teams take advantage of those moments where you’re not playing with that sense and focus that’s needed.”

Matt Barnes:

Lakers’ Matt Barnes on his performance tonight with Kobe out of the lineup:
“With Kobe out, guys need to step up, but at the same time, not do too much. We’re playing good team basketball right now. We’ve had some ups and downs, but for the most part, we’re playing pretty good basketball.”

Lakers’ Matt Barnes on what can be attributed to his strong shooting recently:
“I was just working through it. It’s not always going to work. At the beginning of the season, they left us wide open and we couldn’t hit shots. Now they’re leaving us open and we are hitting shots. It’s a long season and you have to fight through it.”

Lakers’ Matt Barnes on what the team can accomplish when they play like they did tonight:
“When we play hard, we’re a tough team to beat. We’re so talented, but sometimes we’re lazy. When we’re lazy, we allow teams to do stuff that shouldn’t normally happen. When we play hard, we’re a hard team to beat.”

Lakers’ Matt Barnes on what the team has learned playing without Kobe:
“We can do it. We have a good team here. There’s been talk all year that the bench can’t do this or other guys can’t do that. This team is a very talented team and we know our roles. My job is not going to be to score like this every night. My job is to bring energy and play hard. With nights when Kobe is out, guys have to step up.”

Andrew Bynum:

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on the team’s mindset playing without Kobe:
“We’re just sharing the basketball and everyone is being aggressive out there. We’re just playing hard defensively and playing hard offensively.”

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum in response to Mike Brown’s comments about him being a superstar:
“I’m developing. The more minutes that I play, I’m more comfortable on the court. I’m getting the minutes and the opportunity and I’m just trying to do the best I can with it.”

Metta World Peace:

Lakers’ Metta World Peace on how he’s managed to find his shooting stroke recently:
“I think I had a good rhythm even when he was here. I didn’t get as many shots, but the shots I had, I hit some big shots in some games. It wasn’t rough for me. It was just another challenge for me to come. I was never worried. I was more: ‘Ok, this is a challenge. Let’s see how fast I can get back on top of my game.’ And I met the challenge.”

George Karl:

Nuggets coach George Karl on tonight’s game:
“As much as I was disappointed about how we played against Minnesota, I’m proud of how we played tonight. We didn’t have a lot of luck, and we kept fighting and kept fighting and finally found five guys that figured out if you rebound it and go after Bynum good things would happen. Our offense didn’t get enough time and our defense finally turned on in the fourth quarter.”

Nuggets coach George Karl on Andre Miller’s performance tonight:
“He was orchestrating other guys, but also had a good match up. They put [World Peace] on him, I don’t know if [World Peace] stopped him or controlled him or fatigue helped, but I didn’t feel like I could take him off the court.”

Arron Afflalo:

Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo on what the team needs to do the last seven games:
“At this stage of the season you just want to win and we came up short tonight. We need to use these last seven games to build some momentum. We play two important games against Houston which will hopefully allow us to get some separation. We’ve also got Phoenix who’s right behind us. We’ve got a tough little schedule ahead of us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo on Matt Barnes:
“He had an exceptional game tonight and hit some big shots down the stretch. That’s probably my fault and they deserved it.”

Kenneth Farried

Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried on his mentality against a big Laker team:
“My goal was to run them, and get them tired so in the fourth quarter their legs go and they can’t do as much running up and down. That’s what happened, in the fourth quarter they got their legs tired, but we couldn’t grab the lead missing short easy baskets. I just wanted to be active rebound wise. I just went at them and I wasn’t scared.”


Nuggets-Lakers Preview


The Denver Nuggets were fortunate to get a victory in their last game after failing to close out a team playing without its superstar. That could be an important lesson heading into Friday's game at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers, who put forth an impressive team effort in winning without Kobe Bryant.

The Nuggets (32-26) are in the mix for a playoff berth in the Western Conference and appeared to be cruising to a victory Wednesday over reeling Minnesota, which lost All-Star forward Kevin Love to a concussion in the first quarter.

Denver led by as many as 24, but squandered that lead before scraping out a 113-107 victory as Ty Lawson made four free throws in the final 17.6 seconds. Lawson had 24 points and rookie Keith Faried added 16 and 12 rebounds, but the win left a sour taste in coach George Karl's mouth.

"Worst win of the year. There's an immaturity to how we finish games off," he said after the Nuggets won for the sixth time in nine contests. "There's an immaturity to how we play with leads. Fortunately, we figured out how to win it. It wasn't very pretty."

That immaturity could also be a lack of cohesion as the Nuggets mix and match personnel due to players dealing with injuries. Al Harrington scored 11 points while laboring through 22 minutes with a knee problem, and Danilo Gallinari scored 18 in his second game back after missing 10 due to a fractured left thumb.

"It was a little hard to move laterally," Harrington told the team's official website. "But I'm done complaining about it. Just going to take it game by game. I can shoot. I can't really drive and spin like I want to. Hopefully it starts feeling a little better."

Wilson Chandler, however, likely will miss his seventh straight game due to a groin injury.

Harrington and Faried may be in the spotlight, moreso if the Lakers (37-22) are without Bryant for a fourth consecutive game due to a sore left shin. That's because Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have given the Nuggets fits all season.

Bynum has averaged 23.0 points and 13.0 rebounds while shooting 69.8 percent, while Gasol has contributed 16.7 points and 11.0 boards as Los Angeles has won two of the three matchups.

Both played key roles Wednesday when Los Angeles wrapped up a 2-1 road trip without its All-Star guard by rolling past San Antonio 98-84. Bynum had 16 points to go with a career-high 30 rebounds, Gasol had 21 and 11 and Metta World Peace continued his strong recent offensive play with a season-high 26 points.

"Metta stepped up big and he hit a lot of clutch shots," said Bynum, who became the fifth player in franchise history with a 30-rebound game. "(Steve) Blake did too. Matt Barnes shot freely so that's why we have teammates and they picked up the slack. I was just playing defense."

Barnes and Blake combined for 23 points off the bench Wednesday, and World Peace has averaged 19.0 points his last four games - well above his season mark of 7.1.

Lakers coach Mike Brown said there is no timetable for Bryant's return, but also noted his top scorer wasn't pushing to play. Bryant has averaged 17.7 points while shooting 27.5 percent (19 for 69) against Denver this season.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

W LAL 98, SAS 84
W LAL 93, NOH 91
L PHX 125, LAL 105
L HOU 112, LAL 107
W LAL 113, LAC 108
Probable Starters
#15 World Peace SF #8 Gallinari
#16 Gasol PF #35 Faried
#17 Bynum C #41 Koufos
#3 Ebanks SG #6 Afflalo
#7 Sessions PG #3 Lawson

Lakers Kobe Bryant
(tenosynovitis, left shin) is day-to-day.
Andrew Bynum
(sprained left ankle) is probable.
Ramon Sessions
(sprained left shoulder - ac joint) is probable.
Jordan Hill
(sprained MCL, right knee) is questionable.
Al Harrington
(meniscus tear, right knee strain) meniscus tear.
Wilson Chandler
(left hip strain) questionable.
Rudy Fernandez
(lower back strain) out indefinitely.

Game 1: 12/31 - DEN @ LAL W 92-89
Game 2: 01/01 - LAL @ DEN L 99-90
Game 2: 02/03 - LAL @ DEN W 93-89
Game 2: 04/13 - DEN @ LAL

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