Nuggets deny Kobe, Lakers
By DENNIS GEORGATOS
DENVER — Kobe Bryant went on another scoring tear for the Los Angeles Lakers. This time, it wasn’t enough.
Corey Brewer matched his career high with 27 points and the Denver Nuggets overcame a 40-point effort by Bryant to beat the Lakers 126-114 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win at home.
“He’s Kobe Bryant, so he made some tough shots, but other guys didn’t get involved so we were able to get a win,” Brewer said.
Brewer hit four of his six 3-pointers in the final 12-plus minutes, helping the Nuggets hold off the Lakers, whose five-game winning streak was snapped.
Bryant, who hit 40 points for the 116th time in his career, has scored 30 or more points in 10 straight games. But Bryant said it felt as if the Nuggets, who finished with the highest point total by a Lakers opponent this season, kept beating Los Angeles to the punch.
“Tonight it seemed like we were just a step slow, seemed like we were stuck in mud,” Bryant said. “We played old. They played with a lot of energy, a lot of youth, got up and down. It just seemed we were in a lower gear.”
Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Danilo Gallinari added 19 points for Denver. Ty Lawson had 17 points to go with 14 assists, and Andre Iguodala also scored 17 points.
“It was just good to see us shoot the ball and beat a good team with some confidence,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I just think the last couple of games, we have been playing with a little more confidence and more awareness of how to win close games.”
Karl added of Brewer, “His defensive plays and his energy, he energizes us on the perimeter. Kenneth energizes us in the middle. We were smart tonight. We did a good job of getting everyone in a good place on almost every possession.”
The Lakers lost Dwight Howard to an ejection with 5:02 left in the third quarter. He was called for a flagrant foul 2 when he jammed his hand in Faried’s face as the Nuggets forward drove the lane. Faried tumbled to the floor, but shook off the fall to stay in the game.
Howard acknowledged it was a hard foul and that it looked bad when seeing it on replay, but he didn’t think it merited ejection.
“I was surprised it was a flagrant 2,” he said. “My intention was never to hurt Faried. I like the young fellow and my intention was just to foul. I come down the lane, somebody is going to foul me hard, put me on the free throw line and make me shoot free throws. It was the same kind of thing.”
Faried said he thought Howard may have been frustrated and also sensed his determined drive to the basket.
“He saw my eyes, I wasn’t going to back down, I wasn’t going to try to float it,” Faried said. “I was going to try to dunk on him. He saw it. That’s why he put his hand directly in my face.”
Pau Gasol added 19 points for the Lakers and Steve Nash had 15 points in his third game back from a leg injury that sidelined him for 24 games.
Leading by three points at the half, the Nuggets went on a 10-0 run capped by a 3-pointer by Gallinari for a 73-60 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Nuggets scored five consecutive points after Howard’s ejection, including one of two free throws by Faried for an 84-72 advantage. But the Lakers fought back, pulling within 91-87 with a 9-3 burst near the end of the third quarter that Bryant started with a 3-pointer.
Taking advantage of a Lakers turnover, the Nuggets stunned the Lakers with five points in the final 12.7 seconds of the third, with Brewer hitting a running 3-pointer at the buzzer from 26 feet away to allow Denver to take a 96-87 lead into the fourth quarter.
“It was one of those nights when the shots start going down the basket gets big,” Brewer said.
Brewer and Iguodala each hit 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the final period as Denver gained a 15-point advantage.
The Lakers cut it to 113-106 on layup by Jodie Meeks with 4:34 remaining, but Gallinari answered with his third 3-pointer of the night and Faried followed with a driving layup to rebuild Denver’s lead to 118-106. Brewer hit two more 3-pointers in the final 1:19 to ice the victory.
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