GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Denver Nuggets 21 19 29 26 95
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 20 27 22 21 90


Nuggets drop Lakers 2 1/2 games behind Spurs in West

LOS ANGELES (AP) Danilo Gallinari scored 22 points, Kenyon Martin scored six of his 18 in the final 3:24, and the Denver Nuggets hung on for their sixth straight win, 95-90 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points for the Lakers, who snapped a nine-game winning streak to fall 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference. The NBA-leading Spurs beat Phoenix 114-97 earlier Sunday to end a six-game slide.

Los Angeles has six games left to try and overtake the Spurs and earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. The Lakers face the Spurs for the fourth and final time this season on April 12 in their next-to-last regular-season game.

The Lakers need five more wins to reach 60 for the 12th time and third under coach Phil Jackson. All seven of Jackson's teams to reach 60 victories won the NBA title, including five times with Chicago.

The Lakers went into the All-Star break 8 1/2 games behind the Spurs following a three-game skid capped by an embarrassing 104-99 road loss to league-worst Cleveland.

Pau Gasol had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, and reserve Lamar Odom chipped in with 17 points and seven boards. Andrew Bynum had 16 rebounds and reserve forward Matt Barnes returned from a one-game suspension with five points in 18 minutes.

The Lakers were leading 49-46 when Gasol was fouled by Nene on a dunk and crashed to the floor holding his right knee with 9:17 left in the third quarter.

Gasol flexed his leg several times at the scorer's table after the ensuing timeout before play resumed, and he played another 60 seconds before going to the dressing room. The four-time All-Star was back on the bench moments later and reported back in with 4:11 left in the third.

Bryant missed seven of his first nine shots, but still led the Lakers to a 47-40 halftime lead - offsetting Gallinari's 18 first-half points.

Nuggets sixth man J.R. Smith picked up three fouls in less than 5 minutes after reporting into the game. He played 16 minutes and finished with only four points.

Both teams got off to cold-shooting starts, with Los Angeles starting out 6 for 21 and Denver going 5 for 17.

Referee Ron Garretson handed out technical fouls to Nuggets coach George Karl and Bryant during the second quarter.

Jackson-coached teams are 38-21 against teams coached by George Karl during their off-and-on 17-year rivalry - including a 12-4 mark in the postseason. Jackson's Bulls beat Karl's Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals, and the Lakers eliminated the Nuggets from the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.

Notes: Bryant needs to play 58 more minutes to become the 24th player in NBA history with at least 40,000 in the regular season ... Former Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter, whose innovative triangle offense served as a blueprint for Jackson's NBA-record 11 championships in Chicago and Los Angeles, will formally be announced as one of the newest members of the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday prior to the NCAA championship game at Houston - the city where he spent his only two seasons as an NBA head coach with the Rockets in the early 1970s.


Copyright 2011 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




44 Paint points for both teams, the Lakers unable to take advantage of their length edge down low as Kenyon Martin and Nene battled L.A.'s bigs all night.

23 Lead changes in a back-and-forth contest. L.A.'s biggest lead was seven, at the half, and Denver's eight.

20 Turnovers for the Lakers, certainly the stat of the game after they'd committed a total of just 26 in their previous three wins. The whole game plan against Denver was to take care of the ball and get it inside to avoid run outs from Nuggets athletes, which ended up happening at the worst time when back-to-back turnovers resulted in easy buckets in the final minutes. When asked after the game to explain the loss, Kobe Bryant said: "Turnovers."

16 Rebounds in 30 minutes for Andrew Bynum, who added eight points, two blocks and two steals.

5 Assists off the bench for Lamar Odom, who added 17 points, seven boards and a block in a solid all-around effort. Odom made a critical three-pointer in the final minute to give the Lakers a chance to steal a win, but couldn't hold Kenyon Martin off in what proved to be the game-clinching tip in off a missed free throw.

4 Turnovers for Pau Gasol, more than twice his average of 1.8. Gasol scored 16 points with 12 rebounds, though he did have a scare when landing awkwardly on his right knee. He returned to the game, but will go through a precautionary MRI on Monday morning.




View More Photos


Points Bryant 28, 10-27 FG
Rebounds Bynum 16, 5 OFF 11 DEF
Assists Odom 5
Steals Bryant 3
Blocks Bynum 2


POSTGAME QUOTES














LAKERS VS. NUGGETS GAME PREVIEW

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer

The surging Los Angeles Lakers suddenly find themselves very much within reach of the top spot in the Western Conference thanks in part to a season-best winning streak.

The Denver Nuggets also continue to thrive during a five-game run.

As Los Angeles tries to gain ground in the race for first place in the West, the Nuggets will look to clinch a postseason berth when the teams meet Sunday at Staples Center.

The Lakers (55-20) entered All-Star weekend on a three-game losing streak and sat in third place in the conference - 8 1/2 games behind first-place San Antonio.

Los Angeles, though, improved to 17-1 since the All-Star break and extended the longest active run in the league to nine games with a 96-85 victory at Utah on Friday night.

That win, along with the Spurs' sixth straight loss, moved the two-time defending champions within 1 1/2 games of San Antonio for the conference lead.

"We want to win each game," said Kobe Bryant, averaging 31.6 points over his last five. "We're playing really well and we want to try and keep it going and see where we end up."

The Lakers have stepped up defensively during their winning streak, holding opponents to 93.9 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting. They have won their last four games by an average of 17.0 points.

The Nuggets (46-29), averaging an NBA-best 107.5 points, have also used an impressive defensive effort en route to recording five straight wins.

Denver has limited opponents to 95.2 points per contest - 7.5 fewer than its season mark - on 42.1 percent shooting during its run.

Coach George Karl's team improved to 14-4 since tradingCarmelo Anthony to New York and 13-2 when holding opponents to 90 points or fewer with a 99-90 victory at Sacramento on Friday night.

"We're ready for the playoffs right now," said guard Raymond Felton,acquired in the Anthony deal. "… I think mentally and physically we're ready to go."

The Nuggets, who are one win or a Houston loss away from clinching a berth, will get a taste of postseason competition with their upcoming schedule, which features two matchups with Oklahoma City and one with Dallas after Sunday.

"We get to play the next four games with some aggressiveness and pride," said Karl. "We've had a hell of a run. The next four games are playoff games in the regular season against great teams and we'll have to improve and find out how good we are."

The Lakers, playing for the second straight night Friday, trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter before cutting the lead to six at halftime and outscoring the Jazz 54-37 over the final two quarters.

"We've played very well (but) we can go out and have a stinker like we had in the first half and lose a ballgame," coach Phil Jackson said. "We may not have that energy in the second half to come back and win, and it's asking a lot of a team to continue at that pace.

"We want to do it and we have every urgency to do it, but the odds are against us. It's still a real tough thing to do."

Forward Matt Barnes was suspended for Friday's game after getting into an altercation with Jason Terryin Thursday night's 110-82 rout of the Mavericks. Barnes is expected to be available against Denver.

The Lakers have lost four of six overall to the Nuggets but have taken 13 of 15 in the series at home.



Copyright 2011 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

Game Announcements



Lakers Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle) will play.
Devin Ebanks (stress fracture, left tibia) is out.
Theo Ratliff (left knee surgery) is questionable.

Chris Anderson (right ankle sprain) is questionable.
Arron Afflalo
(left hamstring strain) is game-time decision.
Al Harrington
(right achilles tendon strain) is game-time decision.



11/11 - LAL @ DEN L 112-118
01/21 - DEN @ LAL W 107-97
03/03 - DEN @ LAL


Denver is an attack team and we must bring energy to meet their aggression. Since the 3 team – 13 player trade the Nuggets are 13-4 (5-4 on the road). This is a very deep team and they have active players at every position. Defense has been the difference in those 17 games since the trade as the Nuggets are allowing only 95.8 points per game. They have held their opponents to under 90 points in six of those games after doing so only seven times in their previous 57 games. Denver has also been out-rebounding their opponents 45.1 to 39.3 since the trade, after being out-rebounded 41.9 to 40.9 before the trade. Winning the rebound battle has always been important versus the Nuggets. They want to run out and we have hurt them on the offensive boards in the past. Our rebound/defensive balance pattern has always been a big key. Another part of the formula Denver has used since dealing Melo is to get more steals, more points off turnovers, and score more fast break points. Denver was 9-3 in March with their wins coming by an average of 18 points per game and the losses by 4.

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GAME NOTES

SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers and Nuggets have split the first two games (1-1) of their three-game season series after dropping last season's series with Denver 1-3. The two teams have met 145 times in the regular season with the Lakers leading the all-time series 95-50. The Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 regular season meetings with the Nuggets. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 18-3 against the Nuggets all-time and 10-2 in their last 12. In Denver, the Lakers are 3-7 in their last 10 road games at Pepsi Center but snapped a four-game losing streak in their most recent visit on January 21, 2011 (107- 97), posting their first regular season victory there since November of 2008. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-14 versus Denver in the regular season. 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 52 career regular season games including 43 starts against the Nuggets, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.1 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. Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo attended high school locally at Compton Centennial and played collegiately at UCLA. Nuggets head coach George Karl (senior) and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak (freshman) played one season together at the University of North Carolina (1972-73).

ALL-STAR PERFORMANCE AFTER THE BREAK
With their victory at Utah on April 1, the Lakers became just the 4th team since the league introduced the All-Star game in 1951 to post a 17-1 record (or better) out of the break. The 1999-2000 Lakers won their first 16 straight games after the All-Star break, eventually moving to 27-1 before recording their second loss. The only other two teams to win 17 games before recording their second loss after the All-Star Break were the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls (19-1) and the 1997-98 Utah Jazz (17-1).

LAKERS POST LARGEST ROAD COMEBACK VICTORY SINCE 2004
Despite falling behind by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, the Lakers came back to defeat the Jazz 96-85 at EnergySolutions Arena. The win marked the Lakers largest deficit overcome to win a road game since February 8, 2004, when they overcame an 18-point Magic lead in a 98-96 win in Orlando.*

BRYANT NAMED KIA NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE MONTH
On April 1st, Kobe Bryant was named Western Conference Player of the Month for March 2011. The award is Bryant's 13th Western Conf. Player of the Month honor and 14th Player of the Month award overall. Bryant was also named NBA Player of the Month for December of 2000, a year before the award was divided into Eastern and Western Conferences for the 2001-02 season. The award is the first of the season for Bryant, who has won multiple Player of the Month awards in a single season four times (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09). Bryant's previous Western Conference Player of the Month awards came in December 2009, January 2009, December 2008, April 2008, February 2008, March of 2007, December 2006, April 2006, January 2006, March 2004, January 2003 and November 2001.

Bryant averaged 25.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists, leading the Lakers to a league-best 12-1 record on the month, bringing them within 2.5 games of San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference. Bryant achieved several milestones in March, moving ahead of Moses Malone for sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list during a 26- point performance in a win at Atlanta on March 8, and passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the Lakers all-time leader in games played in a win over New Orleans on March 27. Bryant also tallied a season-high 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a win over Phoenix on March 22, on his way to earning the Western Conference Player of the Week award on March 27.

JACKSON NAMED WESTERN CONFERENCE COACH OF THE MONTH
On April 1st, Phil Jackson was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for March 2011. The award is Jackson's fifth Western Conference Coach of the Month honor. Jackson most recently won back-to-back Western Conference Coach of the Month awards for games played in October/November 2008 and April 2008. Jackson also won back-to-back awards for April 2003 and October/November 2003. In March, Jackson led the Lakers to a league-best 12-1 (.923) mark. Prior to these honors, Jackson was last named Coach of the Month in November of 2001 before the award was divided by conference.

ODOM REACHES 12,000 CAREER POINTS
With driving lay-up at the 10:25 mark of the fourth quarter 3/31 vs. Dallas, Lamar Odom scored his 12,000th career point in his 821st career regular season game. In doing so, Odom became just the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 12,000 points, 7,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists and the 9th fastest to do so in terms of games. Only Larry Bird (680 games), Kevin Garnett (681 games), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (691 games), Wilt Chamberlain (691 games), Chris Webber (695), Elgin Baylor (716 games), Bill Russell (748 games) and Charles Barkley (762 games) reached those totals faster than Odom (821 games).

BRYANT BECOMES FRANCHISE LEADER IN GAMES PLAYED
Currently in his 15th season and already the longest tenured Laker in franchise history ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West (14 seasons), Kobe Bryant became the franchise leader in games played with the Lakers win over New Orleans on March 27. Entering the season 72 games behind Abdul-Jabbar (1,093), Bryant's 73rd game this season gave him 1,094 for his career. Bryant now holds the franchise mark for games played in both the regular and postseason (198).






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