Lakers Gameday | 04/08/10 | Nuggets

Box Score
Play by Play

3 Triples nailed by Ron Artest in as many attempts, a pleasant sign for the Lakers since Artest had been struggling from distance (27 percent in March). Artest finished a solid offensive night with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, plus six boards, three assists and two steals.

9 Turnovers for L.A., helping the Lakers hang tough in the game, though a shot clock violation with 1:32 to play and the game tied at 94 was a killer.

9 Free throws missed by Denver, including two big late ones from J.R. Smith and Nene, respectively, that nearly came back to bite the Nuggets.

13 Rebounds for both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, helping L.A. control the glass 52-39. In fact, 17 offensive rebounds helped lead to 26 second-chance points for the Lakers.

16 Assists for the Lakers, to 23 for Denver.

Mike Trudell,

Lakers 96, Nuggets 98: Running Diary
Kobe Sits Out At Denver
4/8 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum
Lakers - Nuggets Notes
Lakers - Nuggets Podcast Preview


Nuggets hold off Lakers for 4th straight win


DENVER(AP) Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points and had a game-saving block at the buzzer, helping the Denver Nuggets hold on for a 98-96 win over a Los Angeles Lakers team playing without Kobe Bryant on Thursday night.

With time winding down, Anthony stuffed Derek Fisher's shot as Denver won its fourth straight.

The slumping Lakers gave Bryant the night off to rest a swollen right knee and an aching right index finger. Los Angeles has now dropped four of its last five games, but remains in control for the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Lakers need just one more win in their last four to wrap it up. Either that or a Denver loss.

J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 26 points, including five 3-pointers, while Chauncey Billups added 12.

The Lakers were led by Paul Gasol, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

The Nuggets took advantage of the Bryant-less Lakers, racing out to a 15-point lead in the third quarter. But it didn't last as the Lakers came roaring back, reclaiming the lead.

However, Nene's free throw with 1:22 remaining put Denver ahead for good.

Not that there wasn't plenty of drama at the finish.

Like, for instance, the deflection call the Lakers felt went the wrong way.

With about 18 seconds left and Denver clinging to a one-point lead, Shannon Brown swatted away a shot by Smith, grabbing the rebound and sending an outlet pass to Fisher.

But Billups broke it up, with the ball glancing off Fisher's fingers before going out of bounds.

The officials ruled it Nuggets ball, and upheld the decision after glancing at the monitor.

Smith made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 98-96. Fisher had a chance to tie, but Anthony blocked his shot.

In the process, though, Anthony twisted his ankle. As the Nuggets celebrated, Anthony hopped around the court in pain.

With the win, Denver moved a full game in front of the Utah Jazz for the Northwest Division lead. The Nuggets also remained in contention for the second seed, staying in a tight race with Phoenix, Dallas and Utah.

Anthony showed no effects from the knock he took the night before in Oklahoma City. The All-Star forward rammed head first into Kevin Durant's chest in the third quarter, momentarily blacking out. Anthony returned in time to help the Nuggets rally for the win over the Thunder.

Smith was on target most of the night, hitting 5 of 11 shots from 3-point range. His long jumper late in the second quarter was a significant one, sending him past Michael Adams for the franchise's all-time lead in 3-pointers made. Smith celebrated by skipping down the court.

Chris Andersen returned to action Thursday after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. The forward who provides a burst of energy off the bench finished with seven boards and two blocks in more than 25 minutes.

Before the contest, Lakers coach Phil Jackson hinted he may try to rest Bryant with the playoffs looming.

The Cavaliers took a similar approach earlier Thursday, resting LeBron James against Chicago with the league's best record already secured.

Bryant has quite a bit of company when it comes to bumps and bruises. Ron Artest has been playing with a bruised left heel and a sprained left thumb, while Brown has a sprained right thumb and Sasha Vujacic a sprained right shoulder.

Artest had 22 points against Denver, while Brown contributed 12 off the bench.

Andrew Bynum remains sidelined with a strained left Achilles'. Bynum said before the game that he's steadily progressing, bu doesn't know when he will be back. He injured the tendon on March 19 against Minnesota.

Jackson said he doesn't want to rush Bynum back too soon, even if it means resting him into the playoffs.

NOTES: Nuggets F Joey Graham didn't play in the second half after spraining his left ankle. ... Nuggets F Kenyon Martin hopes to return as soon as Saturday from a left knee injury that has sidelined him for the last five weeks. ... Lakers F Lamar Odom grabbed 13 boards.

Copyright 2010 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

Phil Jackson – Lakers Head Coach

(End play, was that what you wanted to happen)
I wanted to see Carmelo block Fisher’s shot, I really wanted to see that. We got the mismatch on it, but we didn’t have the action that we asked for. It was because we misplayed it. That is not really where we lost the game; we lost the game in the fourth quarter when we didn’t defend like we did in the third. We defended well in the third quarter. We got some things accomplished and slowed them down considerably and then we gave up some easy baskets in the fourth quarter.

(Happy with the effort)
No, no I wasn’t. Our guards were 3-12, 3-12, 2-11, whatever. It was a really poor shooting night for us as a team. It was a game we probably should have won regardless of how we exposed the ball at the end of the game. As a consequence we had a turnover, which happened again we had a significant turnover about a minute earlier.

Ron Artest – Lakers Forward

“We have to play defense better as a whole. We got a little too excited fast.

(What happened the last 10 seconds)
Carmelo had the block, he had some good D. Unfortunately had his hands on it.

(Miscommunication at the end of the game)
We probably have to look at the tape.

(What now, what is the mental state of your team)
We go to Minnesota that is pretty much it. We have to play hard in Minnesota, get a win and work hard.

(Kobe being out, does it make you nervous)
Our job is to try to win. Guys on the team are going to do what they need to do. Whether it is me, Shannon or Pau; guys are going to do what they need to do for post-season.

Pau Gasol – Lakers Forward

(Any positives to take out from this game)
We played hard, especially in the second half.  It was a nice third quarter, but we gave them too many opportunities to come back and win the ball game. A loss is a loss. There were good things that we did out there, but there is still a lot to improve on.

(Kobe was at practice yesterday. surprised he didn’t play)
I don’t know the exact reasons, but we want him ready for the playoffs. That is the bottom line. Whether he decided or the coaches decided to sit him out, I understand we have to play hard as we did tonight anyways and to win the ball game.

(What was the design for the last possession)
It was a play that we run quite a bit down the stretch, but it didn’t turn out. They switched, Lamar broke to the post to try to take advantage of the switch with Billups on him. Derek didn’t see him, the clock ran out and he had to take a shot. They got a good block by Mr. Anthony and that was the ball game.

Adrian Dantley – Nuggets Acting Head Coach

“Big win, but L.A. is a very good basketball team and they make runs, you make runs in the NBA. They came back in that third quarter and really battled. The bottom line, we had the game under control, but we put them on the free-throw line and offensive rebounds. There is nothing more to say. They stayed in the game because we fouled them in the first half and offensive rebounding throughout the whole game. We got a little discombobulated at the end of the third quarter, settling for jump shots and they got back in the game.

(Back on track)
We went to the pick-and-roll series with Chauncey up top, like we did against Oklahoma City, and we got some good shots at the rim. Melo made a big play at the end defensively. We went small and it seemed like they adjusted and went small, which was surprising. That is Denver Nugget, Lakers basketball; going small, putting Melo at the four and J.R. at the three.

(George Karl visit)
I visited him today and he told me, under the circumstances, that I was doing a good job and to keep it up. He told me that he turned the Oklahoma City game off at the end of the third quarter and he didn’t watch the fourth quarter. I had a good talk with him. He commented on some players, can’t tell you that, but he seemed to be in good spirits.”

Chauncey Billups – Nuggets Guard

(Was it tougher than they thought)
Not really, they still have some really great players out there. They have a great coach. The triangle is always tough to defend. Of course, they would probably be a lot tougher with Kobe and Bynam, but we are shorthanded as well and we are coming off a back-to-back. I’ll take it. Like I said before, for us the playoffs started a week ago. We have to play ugly, we have to fight and scrap and try and get out the best way we can. That is what we did last night and today. They made that run in the third and they kind of had the game like they wanted. We finally turned the tide and played tough the rest of the way.

(Fourth quarter comebacks)
You don’t want to, but at the same time we were coming off a stretch where we played hard. You have to work your way back out of that. That is one game; I’m not trying to knock everyone’s socks off. It is a process. They were playing a whole lot harder than we were, but we came back.

Carmelo Anthony – Nuggets Forward

(Big block at end)
That felt just as good as a game winner.

(Ankle injury)
I came down on Fisher’s ankle at the end, it is nothing big though. We have a day off tomorrow.

(Team’s attitude)
Last night was a playoff game and tonight was a playoff game, even without Kobe. We came out and it was a game of running. We made a run and we went up 10, they came back and went up. It was just a fight. It came down to the end.

(Division title)
I think that is the most important thing on our plate right now and in our minds. We need to win the division and see what happens from there.

(Kobe not playing)
They are still the Lakers. It really doesn’t matter. I am pretty sure Kobe was here tonight and he wanted to play. He was in the back, wishing he had the ball at the end. I would be doing the same thing.” 

Lakers vs. Nuggets Game Preview


Struggling down the stretch, the Los Angeles Lakers would like to get Andrew Bynum back on the court before the playoffs. Coach Phil Jackson said that's probably not going to happen.

Trying again to wrap up the top seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers are not expected to have Bynum available Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers (55-22) have split their last eight games without Bynum, who's out due to a strained Achilles' tendon. He underwent another MRI Monday that revealed no tear, but Jackson said the center continues to experience discomfort some exercise.

"I'm not holding my breath on a timetable," Jackson said Tuesday. "Obviously, we'd like to have him play a couple games at the end of the (regular) season, but this morning I told him if that's not possible, we'll take whatever we can get in the playoffs at that time."

Now in his fifth season, the 22-year-old Bynum is averaging a career-high 15.0 points in 65 games, and his absence has certainly been felt - the Lakers have scored 94.3 points over the last eight games, down from 102.1 points over the first 69 contests.

They shot 40.7 percent in a 100-81 home loss to San Antonio on Sunday. Pau Gasol scored a season-high 32 points and Kobe Bryant added 22, but the Lakers failed to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage through the NBA finals, which went to Cleveland.

Gasol said the Lakers need to recognize what they did wrong while trying to end the regular season on a positive note.

"We should be just aware, aware of what the possibilities are when we don't play as well, when we have a couple mistakes that we shouldn't have,'' he said. "We want to end these last five games on a good note so we feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs, which is important.''

Los Angeles needs to win its last five games to have consecutive 60-win seasons for the first time since doing so in four straight seasons starting in 1984-85.

Bryant also will try to bounce back after struggling over the last two games. He was 8 of 24 from the field against San Antonio, going scoreless in the third quarter, after going 5 of 23 and finishing with 25 points in a 106-92 win over Utah on Friday.

He was held to 14 points on 3-of-17 shooting in a 95-89 victory over the Nuggets on Feb. 28. The Lakers had lost the previous two games with Denver, including 105-79 at the Pepsi Center in November - the largest margin of defeat this season.

Denver (51-27), meanwhile, has stayed competitive for the No. 2 seed in the West by winning three straight after a 1-5 slide and battled for a 98-94 win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Chauncey Billups scored 31 points and Carmelo Anthony overcame an injury to add 24, helping Denver rally from a 13-point deficit.

The Nuggets have held their last three opponents to 92.0 points after allowing 105.3 over the previous six. They didn't give up a basket to the Thunder in the final nine minutes.

Billups scored 15 in the fourth quarter, hitting two free throws that put the Nuggets ahead 96-94 with 52.7 seconds left. They needed that surge as Anthony admitted he wasn't 100 percent after briefly losing consciousness when he rammed head-first into Kevin Durant in the third quarter.

Anthony, who's third in the NBA with 28.4 points per game, played in the fourth.

``I think it was just guts in this game,'' Billups said. ``We rebounded, we got the tough ones, we got the loose balls a lot of times. That's really what prevailed in this game.''

Copyright 2010 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


Ron Artest
(left heel bruise/sprained left thumb) will play.
Shannon Brown
(sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant
(avulsion fracture, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum
(left Achilles strain) is out.
Sasha Vujacic
(sprained right shoulder) is probable.
Luke Walton
(pinched nerve, back) is probable.


Kenyon Martin (left kneee) is out.
Chris Andersen (left ankle sprain) is day-to-day.
Chauncey Billups (left
quadriceps contusion) is probable.


The Lakers currently trail their season series with Denver 1-2 after taking last season’s series from the Nuggets 3-1. The two teams have met 142 times in the regular season with the Lakers leading the all-time series 94-48. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 overall 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 4-6 in their last 10 road games at Pepsi Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 25-12 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 50 career regular season games including 41 starts against the Nuggets, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.4 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.

The Lakers are FIVE games ahead of Dallas, Denver, Utah and Phoenix in the loss column with FIVE games remaining in the regular season and can clinch the #1 seed in the West with a victory in any of their remaining games OR a Nuggets loss in any of their remaining games. Since the NBA went to the Conference format prior to the 1970-71 season, the Lakers have held the #1 seed 15 times (1972, 1977, 1980, 1982-90, 2000, 2008, 2009), winning the West 12 times and the NBA Championship on eight occasions. The Lakers have owned the #1 seed 10 times since the current format featuring 16 teams was instituted prior to the 1984 NBA Playoffs. Additionally, with a Phoenix Suns loss at Milwaukee 4/3, the Lakers clinched their 21st Pacific Division title in their 40th season in the division. Earlier this season, with a victory over Minnesota and a Rockets loss to Boston on March 19th, the Lakers became the 1st team in the West to clinch a playoff spot, marking their 57th postseason appearance in 62 NBA seasons as well as their 29th playoff berth in 31 seasons since Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the team prior to the 1979-80 season.

Thursday’s game at Denver is the first of a back-to-back set against the Nuggets and Timberwolves. This season, the Lakers are 11-7 in the first game and 12-6 in the second game of back-to-backs. On the 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 a win over Utah 4/2, the Lakers snapped their 12th two-game losing streak since acquiring Pau Gasol on February 1, 2008 (10 regular season, 2 playoff streaks).

Of the 12 two-game skids, only once have the Lakers dropped three straight with consecutive losses 3/4 at Miami, 3/5 at Charlotte and 3/7 at Orlando (their FIRST three- game losing streak since January of 2008). On four occasions, the Lakers played the third game of the streak without Gasol, snapping each of them with victories 3/18/08 at Dallas, 3/30/08 vs. Washington in overtime, 11/17/09 vs. Detroit and 1/10/10 vs. Milwaukee. Prior to their early March 3-game skid, the Lakers last three-game losing streak came just a week before the trade, with consecutive losses at San Antonio, at Dallas and vs. Cleveland from 1/23/08 through 1/27/08.

Additionally, the Lakers loss at Orlando marked the first time that Los Angeles has been swept on a three-game road trip since April of 2005 when they lost 4/2 at San Antonio (94-95), 4/3 at Memphis (82-102) and 4/5 at Phoenix (99-125). They did, however, go 0-4 on a four-game road trip in March of 2007, falling 3/4 at Phoenix (94-99), 3/6 at Minnesota (107-117 2OT), 3/7 at Milwaukee (90-110) and 3/9 at Philadelphia (92-108).
The last team to lose three straight regular season games and win a NBA Championship was the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, who suffered one 3-game losing streak in February of ‘08. The last Lakers team to lose three straight games and win a NBA Championship was the 2001-02 Lakers, who dropped three in a row in February of ‘02.

On April 5, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss has been named to its Class of 2010. Enshrinement for this year’s class will take place in Springfield, Massachusetts on August 13th. One of eight individuals and two teams comprising the Class of 2010 along with Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson, Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira, the 1960 USA Men’s Olympic team and the 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team,” Buss is the third Laker to enter the Hall as a contributor (Pete Newell, Chick Hearn). “This is an overwhelming honor and one that I never anticipated when I began my ownership of the Lakers 31 years ago,” said Buss. “I truly thank everyone involved for according me the privilege of being a member of such a prestigious body as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.” Owner of the Los Angeles Lakers since 1979, Buss has built one of the most successful organizations in the history of professional sports. During his ownership, the Lakers have won nine NBA Championships and made 15 trips to the NBA Finals while recording the most victories and highest overall winning percentage in the NBA.

With 24 points 3/24 at San Antonio, Kobe Bryant passed Alex English (25,613) for 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant (25,770), who earlier this season moved past Jerry West (25,192) for 1st on the Lakers all-time scoring list and 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, passed Reggie Miller (25,279) for 13th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list 2/24 at Dallas. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant are John Havlicek (11th/26,395) and Dominique Wilkins (10th/26,668).

Bryant passed West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West’s retired number). Less than a month earlier, with 22 points 1/5 vs. Houston, Bryant moved past Patrick Ewing (24,815) for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. In November, with his free throw at the 6:07 mark of the third quarter 11/19 vs. Chicago, Bryant moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) for 2nd on the Lakers all-time franchise scoring list while with 41 points 11/6 vs. Memphis, Bryant moved past Allen Iverson for 16th on the all-time list. Bryant has been steadily moving up the list the last few years and last season alone, passed Charles Barkley (23,757) for 17th, Robert Parish (23,334) for 18th, 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.


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