Lakers 103, Nuggets 97

FIRST QUARTER

The Lakers did exceedingly well at some of the things they worked on after Game 2. The got the ball into the lane, scored 14 points in the paint, played better transition defense, and got Derek Fisher’s shot going. They did not however, shoot very well from the free throw line, shooting an atrocious 4-for-10 at the charity stripe in the first quarter. The Nuggets were 11-for-13 from the line, including 7-of-8 from Carmelo Anthony.

NUGGETS 28, LAKERS 26

SECOND QUARTER
Both teams allow way too much dribble penetration, but neither team shoots particularly well from the floor. Denver hits just eight of its 23 shots (39 percent), the Lakers make eight of 20 (40 percent). Denver goes on a 13-5 run to turn a 39-39 game into a 52-44 lead on Linus Kleiza’s fast break dunk, but the Lakers close out the half well, getting a 3-pointer from Trevor Ariza and technical foul shot by Kobe Bryant to cut the lead back to four. Denver’s Chris Andersen scores 10 points in the quarter.

NUGGETS 52, LAKERS 48

THIRD QUARTER

Two of the game’s coldest shooters finally get hot. First Denver’s JR Smith hits a 3-pointer after missing his first six shots, then the Lakers Sasha Vujacic hits a 3-pointer from the top of the key for his first field goal of the game. Smith drills another triple at the end of the quarter after beating Vujacic to a loose ball, sending the Pepsi Center crowd into a frenzy. The only good news for the Lakers is they manage to hold Carmelo Anthony scoreless in the period, he misses his only two shots and picks up his fourth foul.

NUGGETS 79, LAKERS 71

FOURTH QUARTER

The Lakers tighten up their defense, forcing the Nuggets to miss their first nine shots of the quarter, and allowing the Lakers to take the lead 83-81 on Kobe Bryant’s 16-foot jumper with 6:46 to go. The Nuggets regain some composure, and even the lead, 95-93 on JR Smith’s jumper with 1:30 to go, but Bryant isn’t about to let the Lakers lose this game. He scores eight of the Lakers final 10 points, Trevor Ariza comes up with another big steal and the Pepsi Center crowd exits in stunned silence.

LAKERS 103, NUGGETS 97

HERO
It wasn’t the dramatic, end of the game dagger like LeBron James hit Friday night to win Game 2 for the Cavaliers, but Kobe Bryant’s 3-pointer over JR Smith with 1:08 remaining the game, was no less important. Bryant had 41 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but no shot was bigger than the 3-pointer he drained in front of Smith to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish. He scored eight of the Lakers final 10 points.

GOAT

After two stellar games in Los Angeles, Carmelo Anthony was a non-factor in the decisive second half in Game 3. He managed just three points after halftime, all on free throws before fouling out with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Anthony finished with just 21 points after scoring 72 in the first two games.

STAT

9

Consecutive shots missed by the Nuggets to start the fourth quarter. Denver’s 79-71 lead evaporated within five and a half minutes.

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Nuggets 79, Lakers 71 after 3

Two of the game’s coldest shooters finally get hot. First Denver’s JR Smith hits a 3-pointer after missing his first six shots, then the Lakers Sasha Vujacic hits a 3-pointer from the top of the key for his first field goal of the game. Smith drills another triple at the end of the quarter after beating Vujacic to a loose ball, sending the Pepsi Center crowd into a frenzy. The only good news for the Lakers is they manage to hold Carmelo Anthony scoreless in the period, he misses his only two shots and picks up his fourth foul.

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Ariza update

DENVER — Trevor Ariza is suffering from hip and groin pain after taking a tumble midway through the third quarter. He was driving to the basket when he crashed-landed on the court. He was in the locker room being treated for his injury. He returned to the game to start the fourth quarter.

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Nuggets 52, Lakers 48 (HALF)

Both teams allow way too much dribble penetration, but neither team shoots particularly well from the floor. Denver hits just eight of its 23 shots (39 percent), the Lakers make eight of 20 (40 percent). Denver goes on a 13-5 run to turn a 39-39 game into a 52-44 lead on Linus Kleiza’s fast break dunk, but the Lakers close out the half well, getting a 3-pointer from Trevor Ariza and technical foul shot by Kobe Bryant to cut the lead back to four. Denver’s Chris Andersen scores 10 of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter.

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Nuggets 28, Lakers 26

The Lakers did exceedingly well at some of the things they worked on after Game 2. The got the ball into the lane, scored 14 points in the paint, played better transition defense, and got Derek Fisher’s shot going. They did not however, shoot very well from the free throw line, shooting an atrocious 4-for-10 at the charity stripe in the first quarter. The Nuggets were 11-for-13 from the line, including 7-of-8 from Carmelo Anthony.

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Kobe countersues housekeeper

Kobe Bryant and his wife are accusing their former housekeeper of violating her contract by talking to the media about the familys private affairs after suing them for allegedly harassing and humiliating her, the Associated Press reported.

The countersuit filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court says Maria Jimenez violated a confidentiality agreement she signed when she came to work for the Los Angeles Lakers star and his wife.

The court filing calls Jimenezs allegations that she was denied health insurance and was forced to quit because of intolerable working conditions specious and frivolous.

The Bryants attorney Jon G. Daryanani said he did not have any further comment on the suit.

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A wise Fish once said…

I had a really interesting talk with Derek Fisher earlier in the week, talking about the 2004 Lakers team and some of the things he learned from the experiences that crazy bunch had….

Click here for the link:

Or, for a quick preview, here’s a short excerpt:

Like the championship teams of the early part of this decade, Fisher said he thinks the current team is constructed to have an opportunity to win this year, next year and even a few years after that.

But having gone through the abrupt rise and fall of the previous dynasty, he’s not taking anything for granted.

How quickly can things change for these Lakers in the off-season?

Kobe Bryant can opt out after this season, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown are unrestricted free agents and Jackson has gone back and forth on retirement all season.

Which, when put onto paper like that, sounds eerily similar to the 2004 off-season, which Jackson later called “The Last Season” in his book.

“Oh yeah, it was gone (quickly),” Fisher said of the 2004 team which was dismantled after losing to the Pistons in the NBA Finals.

“The team was deconstructed, the coach was gone, that’s just this business. That’s pro sports.”

It happened so quickly, Fisher didn’t even see it coming.

“I think we all understood there would be some adjustments and some changes because we had so many guys that were potential free agents, but the idea of the whole cover being ripped apart, where it’d be a whole new organization and team, we had no idea.”

What resonates strongly with Fisher, in hindsight, is the common purpose that team had, as veterans including Karl Malone and Gary Payton played through injuries and struggles in relentless pursuit of a championship they never had tasted.

“I think I relate to them better now,” Fisher said. “I had an appreciation for where they were then. I didn’t see myself as this young guy who had 15 years ahead of me. That was 2004, I was 29 myself. So I had an appreciation for what they were after.

“That’s what made that team special, even with all the personalities and injuries and things we had to go through, because of that common purpose, because Gary and Karl were here for that one reason.

“Our team had won three and then we lost the year before, so all we wanted was to win that championship in ’04. But the injuries just tore us apart. Karl’s (knee) injury, but really Horace Grant’s hip injury. We didn’t have a power forward at all, and if you try to match up against a team like Detroit with no power forward, it’s really tough.

“I had an appreciation for them then, but I think I relate to them more now. I don’t see this as my last stand, but obviously I’m much closer to the end of my career than the beginning, so I would never want an opportunity like last year’s or this year’s to just kind of slip by as if, “Oh well, five years from now I’ll get that back.”‘

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Q-and-A with Phil and Kobe

Here’s some stuff from Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant after today’s practice.

Q: Are you concerned about having to match them more than they have to match you? Jackson: “No. I’m not that concerned about it.”

Q: Any big adjustments for Game 3?
Jackson: “They won, but these were both very close games. It’s not like the bottom fell out of the ocean just because we lost this ballgame. We had a game. We lost our shot to win the game, obviously, on a couple of plays down the stretch. We’re OK. What we have to do is get more physical with this team, and that’s a hard thing to say because it’s a physical basketball club. Just being able to play through a physical game without letting it affect our cuts, our activity level. They’re jamming up the cutters. We’re not able to keep the movement going that facilitates our offense.”

Q: What’s your road strategy?
Jackson: “You definitely know you’re going to have to play a tighter game turnover-wise. You can’t be quite as loose. We can’t get involved in a 25 3-point shot attempt-type of ballgame. Our spacing has to be better. We have to dramatize our spacing in this ballgame. And our activity level has to be better.”

Q: What about the altitude in Denver?
Jackson: “I think they’re effected by it, but it’s not a factor that’s going to change the outcome of the game. They’ve been here for four or five days. The body changes in a period of 36 to 48 hours.”

Bryant’s opening statement: “You’ve just got to respond to the challenge. It’s the playoffs. It’s not easy for anybody. Denver is a great team, and so are we.”

Q: Do you expect the Nuggets to be even better at home?
Bryant: “Much better. They’ll be playing looser, with more confidence, more energy, more aggression. I think we played hard. I don’t think they outhustled us or anything like that. They got to the free throw line and created easy opportunities for themselves at the end of the ballgame. It’s always been a tough place to play. They had a great home record last season, too. This season is no different.”

Q: Does the series feel as close as it looks?
Bryant: “We’ve had two really close ballgames, great ballgames to watch. … It does feel that close. It’s different from the last series, when we had these big leads and milked the games away. This series is not like that. We know what they’re capable fo doing. Now it’s about stopping them, which is harder to do because it’s the Western Conference finals. It’s not the first round or the second round.”

Q: Who makes the next move?
Bryant: “The team that loses. It’s on us. It’s always the team that losses that makes the adjustments. It’s kind of a back-and-forth thing.

Q: What about Carmelo Anthony asking to guard you down the stretch?
Bryant: “I rubbed off on him. To be a great player you’ve got to play both ends of the floor. You’ve got to be able to do everything. I told him all summer long, you’ve got the talent to do both, don’t do just one. He seems to be responding to that challenge. … It adds to the competition, to the excitement.”

Q: How do you get your big men more involved in Denver?
Bryant: “We’ve got to stop their big men, that’s first and foremost. We’ve got to stop them from being as effective as they’ve been. As far as ours go, Pau (Gasol) did a good job for us last night, both on the boards and his production. We’ve just to get some more of that. It’s funny Game 2 comes down to some plays down the stretch, some calls here and there and some calls here and there. Now it’s like we have to re-invent the wheel. We’ll just do what we do.”

Q: How do you stop Chauncey Billups?
Bryant: “Keep them out of the bonus. They get into the bonus early, then Chauncey starts running into people. He draws contact. Those are some of the things we need to prevent.”

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Splitsville

The Lakers failed to hold homecourt advantage in the Western Conference finals. They dropped Game 2 to the Denver Nuggets, 106-103, tonight at Staples Center, losing a game they could have won but didn’t. They swapped places with the Nuggets, who could have won Game 1 on Tuesday, but didn’t. The series shifts to Denver for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. Game 5 is Wednesday back at Staples.

Not too much difference between the teams in either game. Trevor Ariza had a big steal to help the Lakers win Game 1. Kobe Bryant made six straight free throws in crunch time. In Game 2, they failed to make the big plays. The Nuggets snared a couple of loose balls and Chauncey Billups made three of four free throws in the closing seconds.

Derek Fisher missed a 3-pointer over the outstretched hands of Nene that could have tied the score at 106-all. Fisher’s shot was woefully short, however. Fisher scored only three points on 1-for-9 shooting, which begs the question: why him? Well, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he figured the Nuggets would just foul Bryant if the ball went to him on an inbounds play with 4.3 seconds remaining. So, Luke Walton passed it to Fisher.

“I had a pretty good look at it,” Fisher said after the game. “I figured they were going to try to foul to prevent us from shooting a 3. I think I got rid of it a little quicker than I probably had to. Definitely don’t want to put yourself in a position where you need that kind of shot to try and tie the game.”

Now, it’s off to Denver.

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Bryant climbs list (updated)

Kobe Bryant started Game 2 tonight needing only 15 points to tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second place on the Lakers’ all-time playoff scoring list with 4,070 points. Bryant passed Magic Johnson (3,701 points) for third place earlier in the postseason. Jerry West holds the Lakers record for playoff points with 4,457. West also is fifth on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.

UPDATE: Bryant passed Abdul-Jabbar when he scored on a layup to give the Lakers a 49-36 lead late in the first half. The basket gave Bryant 16 points in the game and 4,071 in his career in the postseason.

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