Lakers Gameday | 11/13/09 | Nuggets
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Nuggets dismantle Lakers in first meeting since playoffs
By Michael Kelly, for NBA.com
DENVER (NBA.com exclusive) -- The Lakers aren't ready to call the Nuggets rivals, but after the way Denver treated them Friday, they might change their thinking.
The Nuggets returned from a six-game road trip in style, running Los Angeles out of Pepsi Center with a 105-79 win. It was a little payback for last May, when the Lakers beat Denver in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals.
That loss has become motivation for the Nuggets this year.
"Everybody got a taste of the wine or the food that we all like," Denver coach George Karl said. "It's a special taste."
To stay at the table the Nuggets know they have to beat the Lakers, and they sent a message in the third quarter Friday. Leading 58-56 at the half, Denver outscored L.A. 29-8 to blow open the game. The Lakers, who beat Phoenix at home on Thursday night for their sixth straight win, looked like a tired team in the period, shooting 4-for-20 while the Nuggets were 10-for-21.
Kobe Bryant, held to a season-low 19 points -- and none in the second half -- said playing the second game of a back-to-back and not having Pau Gasol didn't make a difference against Denver.
"They beat the hell out of us," said Bryant, who hadn't been shut out in a half since April 11, 2004. "I don't if we had Pau it would have made any difference. They played extremely well."
Carmelo Anthony, held to seven points in the first half because of foul trouble, caught fire in the second half, scoring 18 points after the break to finish with a game-high 25. J.R. Smith, playing his third game following a seven-game suspension, had 20 and help spark Denver's second half run that put the game away.
By the start of the fourth quarter the Lakers had thrown in the towel, emptying their bench to finish the blowout.
"This is one those games you're not going to get back so let's get some experience for some of these guys," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Experience was one thing the Nuggets didn't have last May, but they feel they got it during their deepest playoff run in 24 years. They also felt beating the Lakers was important.
"When you're an elite team, you want to play the best," guard Chauncey Billups said. "The way that we played them the last game here, in our building, was just embarrassing. So, we wanted to come out and keep the rivalry alive."
The Lakers are reluctant to acknowledge the rivalry, but a few more meetings in the playoffs -- and a few more games like Friday's -- might change that.
"We were able to sweep them two years ago in the playoffs. They know that, and they know what happened last year and what it felt like," Jackson said. "We told the players it was much more important to them than it was to us to win and you guys have got to meet that challenge, and we weren't able to."
The Nuggets know a November win isn't going to mean much in the spring, but beating the defending NBA champions -- and a team they felt they should have beaten in the conference finals -- gives them confidence.
"It's a big, big win for us," Anthony said. "I know it's early, but it's hard not to get excited for a game like this. Hopefully, it sends a big message, not only to the Lakers, but to the whole NBA: we're a legit team."
The Lakers' confidence is unbowed despite losing by 26.
"We've been through so many battles," Bryant said. "You have games like this."
Phil Jackson – Lakers Head Coach
“No one stepped up in the second half and played ball. We ended up taking long shots and turning the ball over; just like we didn’t want to do it starting the third quarter. Everybody has travel problems on something like this. You always have tough game situations. That’s part of being one of the top teams in the league. They were great tonight. Without a doubt we will look at the game tape. (What will you learn) What guys were tentative about. How their defense kept us from getting the ball inside to the position we wanted. These guys have to learn things like that. Their defense play was effective. Artest played Carmelo fine. I thought there were some tough situations he asked the referee about after the game. He wanted clarification as to what is fair play and I thought the two of them were like bull, elks locking horns.”
Kobe Bryant – Lakers Guard
“It was a great game by them. They played extremely well defensively. They got after us, they executed extremely well. They beat us, period. (Melo) I’ve always felt his game was sharp. (Is competition against Nugget players’ fun?) Yeah, especially the guys from the Olympic team and Chauncey; he is a tough match up. They drug us with a lot of energy. They played with lots of energy. They executed extremely well and we tried to keep it within a manageable distance. We weren’t able to do that though and they broke us open pretty good. They just beat us. We are a great back-to-back team and a great road team, but they beat us straight up and down.”
Andrew Bynum – Lakers Center
“The altitude is tough. I didn’t get too many touches down low. We weren’t swinging the ball and there was no movement on offense. A lot of it was our lack of playing team basketball. We would come down and dump it in and then everybody would stand still. The third quarter was terrible. I think everybody was disappointed a little bit. All we can do is go in there and get ready for Houston. I don’t think it is a rivalry at all. They might feel that way, but we don’t. We are just trying to get back to that championship level.”
Lakers vs. Nuggets Game Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE, STATS Writer
Although Friday's game is just one of 82 on the schedule, the Denver Nuggets are understandably putting a little more emphasis on this matchup.
Facing the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers for the first time since last season's Western Conference finals, Denver looks to get back on track following a lengthy trip.
But the way the Pacific Division-leading Lakers are playing, that could be quite a challenge.
After rolling through New Orleans and Dallas in the opening two rounds of the 2008-09 playoffs and advancing to their first West finals since 1985, the Nuggets fell to Los Angeles in six games. In the series finale at the Pepsi Center on May 29, the Lakers routed Denver 119-92 and advanced to their second straight NBA finals behind Kobe Bryant's 35 points and 10 assists and 20 points apiece from Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
"We've been waiting kind of all summer to re-introduce ourselves to the Lakers," coach George Karl told the Nuggets' official Web site. "I think it's kind of good to have the first one on your court."
Denver and Los Angeles play four times during the regular season, but this heated rivalry got a jump-start in the preseason. In both teams' exhibition finale Oct. 23 in San Diego, the Nuggets' 119-105 victory was overshadowed by eight technical fouls, two flagrants and an altercation under the basket between Odom and Denver center Chris Andersen.
"They're going to be ready to go up against us, especially after the little melee we had in San Diego," said Bryant, who averaged 36.7 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds as the Lakers won two of three in Denver in the West finals. "It will be interesting."
The Nuggets (6-3) will try to improve to 3-0 at home for the first time since 1989-90 as they play their first game at the Pepsi Center since Nov. 1. Denver's six-game eastern trip ended with a 108-102 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Nuggets have dropped three of four since a 5-0 start.
"Before the season started, you probably would've taken 6-3," Karl said. "After being 5-0, you're probably hoping for a little bit more."
Denver, though, couldn't ask for much more from Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging a career-best 30.2 points. He scored 14.5 points per game as the Nuggets lost three of four to the Lakers in the 2008-09 regular season, but he improved his production to 27.5 in the conference finals.
While the Lakers will likely give Ron Artest the task of guarding Anthony, Denver will need to find someone to slow down Bryant after defensive specialist Dahntay Jones signed with Indiana in the offseason.
Bryant had 29 points and center Andrew Bynum added 26 with 15 rebounds as Los Angeles (7-1) shot a season-best 57.6 percent from the field and won its sixth straight Thursday - 121-102 over a Phoenix team leading the NBA in scoring at 111.3 points per game.
"We did a great job trying to corral a team that's been scoring out of this world," Bryant said.
Gasol will not make his season debut Friday due to a strained right hamstring, but Bynum could create problems for Denver's Nene and Kenyon Martin after a strong showing Thursday following a two-game absence with a strained right elbow.
"I got my legs back, and I'm fresh,'' Bynum said. "As far as the elbow goes, I'm going to continue getting treatment. It hurts a little bit, but it's going to be that way for a little while.''
The Lakers and Nuggets next play Feb. 5 in Los Angeles.
Copyright 2009 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
Pau Gasol (right hamstring strain) is doubtful.
Renaldo Balkman - Probable - Was placed on the Inactive List at Milwaukee on 11/11 while suffering from a sinus infection.
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers took last season’s series from the Nuggets 3-1, having now defeated Denver in 6-of-their-last-7 regular season meetings. The two teams have met 139 times in the regular season with the Lakers leading the all-time series 93-46. The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 overall regular season meetings with the Nuggets but are 6-1 in their last seven games and are 26-12 against Denver since the 1999-00 season. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 17-2 against the Nuggets all-time and 9-1 in their last 10. In Denver, the Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 road games but are 2-1 against the Nuggets in their last three visits to Pepsi Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 24-10 versus Denver. In the postseason, the Lakers and Nuggets have met five times with the Lakers advancing on each occasion, most recently defeating Denver 4-2 in the 2009 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers are 17-4 overall against the Nuggets in postseason games (9-2 home, 8-2 road). Additionally, the Lakers won 11 straight playoff games against the Nuggets from 5/17/85 – 5/19/09, the 2nd longest postseason win streak against one team in NBA history behind the Lakers 12-game win streak versus Seattle from 1980-89. In 47 career regular season games including 38 starts against the Nuggets, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.6 points. Bryant established the series record for points in a game (51) in February of 2003 but was tied by Allen Iverson in 2007-08 when he scored 51 points in the Lakers 111-107 victory at Pepsi Center on December 14, 2007. Last season, Bryant and Carmelo Anthony both finished in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring for the second straight season, finishing 3rd (26.8 points) and 7th (22.8 points) respectively.
JACKSON NEARS LARRY BROWN FOR 5th ON THE ALL-TIME COACHING WIN LIST
A season after earning his record 10th NBA Championship as a head coach, Phil Jackson (1,047-436) is now just one win shy of tying Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown (1,048-850) for 5th on the NBA’s all-time coaching win list. The only coach in league history to win better than 70 percent of his games (.706), Jackson ranks 12th in all-time regular season games coached and 1st in playoff games coached (300), won (209) and playoff winning percentage (.697). Last season, Jackson became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 career victories, needing 1,423 games to reach the mark. Earning induction in his first year of consideration, on September 7, 2007, Jackson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Only Jerry Sloan (4th), Pat Riley (3rd), Don Nelson (2nd) and Lenny Wilkens (1st) have more career victories than Brown and Jackson while of the top six, Jackson has coached 1,000+ fewer games than Wilkens, 800+ fewer games than Nelson, nearly 500 fewer games than Riley and roughly 400 fewer games than Sloan and Brown.
Thursday’s game against Phoenix is the first of a back-to-back set with the Suns and Nuggets. The Lakers returned 2-0 from their first road trip and set of back-to-backs of the season last week, winning in overtime in both Oklahoma City and Houston. On the season, the Lakers are 1-0 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game of back-to- backs. This year, the Lakers will play 20 sets of back-to-back games, the most the team has played in a single season since playing 22 sets of back-to-backs during the 1999-00 campaign. Last year, the Lakers played 19 sets of back-to-backs, going 14-5 in the first game and 14-5 in the second as well. Charlotte, Detroit and Milwaukee lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2009-10 while New Orleans (15) and San Antonio (17) will play the fewest sets this season.
With their 104-88 victory over New Orleans November 8th, the Lakers posted their FIRST wire-to-wire victory of the season. Last season, the Lakers claimed nine wire-to- wire victories (games in which they never trailed) during the regular season, tied for 3rd most in the league (Phoenix) behind Cleveland (14) and Orlando (13). The Lakers also won in wire-to-wire fashion twice during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah and 5/17 vs. Houston). Additionally, the Lakers were one of only two teams last season (Cleveland) to never lose in wire-to-wire fashion during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, the Lakers played two games in which they never led, falling twice to Houston in the Conference Semifinals (5/10/09 at HOU and 5/14/09 at HOU). In the regular season, the Lakers have not lost in wire-to-wire fashion since 1/17/08 vs. PHX.
VUJACIC COMPLETES 6TH FOUR-POINT PLAY OF CAREER, 28th IN FRANCHISE HISTORY
In the fourth quarter of the Lakers November 8th victory over New Orleans, Sasha Vujacic converted the 28th four-point play in Lakers franchise history (regular season and playoffs included). With his three-pointer and free throw, Vujacic is now responsible for six of the team’s 23 regular season four-point plays and 28 overall. Kobe Bryant owns the most four-point plays in team history with 10 overall (7 regular season, 3 postseason), followed by Vujacic (6), Derek Fisher (5) and Eddie Jones (2).
BRYANT OVERTAKES IVERSON ON NBA’S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With 41 points November 6th against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant (24,055) moved ahead of Memphis’ Allen Iverson (24,020) for 16th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant moved to 17th on the list with his first two free throws on April 10th at Portland last season, passing Charles Barkley (23,757). Barkley reached his scoring total in 1,073 games over 16 seasons in contrast to Bryant, who did so in his 946th career game. In all last season, Bryant passed Robert Parish (23,334) for 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 19th, Elgin Baylor (23,149) for 20th, Clyde Drexler (22,195) for 21st, Gary Payton (21,813) for 22nd and Larry Bird (21,791) for 23rd. Additionally, in passing Baylor, now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) and Jerry West (25,192 points) have scored more points with the Lakers than Bryant. Next on the NBA’s all-time list ahead of Bryant and Iverson are Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Jerry West (25,192).
BRYANT YOUNGEST IN NBA HISTORY TO 24,000 CAREER POINTS; 17th EVER TO REACH MILESTONE
With a second-quarter basket November 6th against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant (31 years, 75 days) became the youngest player in NBA history to score 24,000 points, reaching the milestone ahead of Wilt Chamberlain (31 years, 113 days). In terms of games, of the 17 players to now have scored 24,000 points, Bryant is the 9th fastest to do so in terms of games (954). Wilt Chamberlain was the fastest in league history to score 24,000 points, doing so in just 653 games.
Last season, with 34 points February 10 vs. Oklahoma City, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to score 23,000 points (30 years, 171 days), reaching the milestone FIVE days younger than Wilt Chamberlain (30 years, 176 days). In terms of games, of the 21 players to score 23,000 points, Bryant was the 11th fastest to do so, reaching the mark in 917 games. Earlier in the year, with 28 points December 2 at Indiana, Bryant became the 22nd player in NBA history to score 22,000 points and in doing so, became the 2nd youngest player ever to 22,000 points (30 years, 101 days), one day older than Wilt Chamberlain (30 years, 100 days) who scored his 22,000th point on 11/26/66. The youngest player in league history to accumulate 14,000 – 20,000 and 23,000 – 24,000 points, Bryant became the 12th fastest to 22,000 points in terms of games, reaching the mark in 881 career games. Through his career, Bryant has been 29th fastest to 15,000, 22nd fastest to 16,000, 20th fastest to 17,000, 16th fastest to 18,000, 15th fastest to 19,000, 15th fastest to 20,000, 12th fastest to 21,000, 12th fastest to 22,000 and 11th fastest to 23,000 points in terms of games.
In the Lakers November 6th victory over Memphis, Kobe Bryant scored 41 points, marking the 99th time in his career that he has scored 40-plus points in a game and the third time this season. Last season, Bryant posted four 40-plus point games. Bryant’s 46 points February 1, 2008 at Toronto moved him past Elgin Baylor (88 40-plus games) for third all-time and into first in Lakers franchise history. In the history of the NBA, only two players have more career 40-point games: Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173). The Lakers are now 68-31 in games that Bryant has scored 40-plus points. This season, the Lakers are 3-0 when Bryant scores 40-plus. Bryant holds the Lakers franchise record for 40-point games in a single season, recording 27 during the 2005-06 campaign. Bryant also holds the franchise record for most consecutive 40-point games (9), established during the 2002-03 season, which is tied for the fourth longest such streak in NBA history (Michael Jordan) behind Wilt Chamberlain, who twice posted streaks of 14 and once had a 10-game streak.