Los Angeles wins series 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

Game 1: Tuesday, May 19th
Game 2: Thursday, May 21st
Game 3: Saturday, May 23rd
Game 4: Monday, May 25th
Game 5: Wednesday, May 27th
Game 6: Friday, May 29th

Nuggets 103

(54-28, 21-20 away)

Lakers 105

(65-17, 36-5 home)

    Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

    9:00 PM ET, May 19, 2009

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    DEN 31 23 22 27103
    LAL 23 32 19 31105

    Top Performers

    Den: C. Anthony 39 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk

    LAL: K. Bryant 40 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk

    Bryant's 40 too much for Nuggets as Lakers overcome Anthony's superb night

    Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant proved a steadying presence for his wildly inconsistent teammates, taking over in the fourth quarter and delivering a come-from-behind victory.

    Bryant scored 40 points, including six free throws in the final 30 seconds, to lift Los Angeles to a 105-103 win over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals opener on Tuesday night after the Lakers trailed most of the game.

    "Once I sensed we didn't have the energy, I had to take it upon myself to lead by example," he said. "It's just part of my responsibilities to this team."

    Fast Facts

    • The Lakers continued their postseason dominance over the Nuggets. They have won 11 straight playoff games against Denver. That's the second longest streak vs. an opponent in NBA history and one win shy of the mark set by the 1980's Lakers that won 12 straight postseason games against the SuperSonics.

    • The Lakers improved to 7-1 at home this postseason. It was the only home win decided by single digits this postseason. The Lakers improved to 8-0 this postseason when scoring 100 points or more (1-4 when scoring below 100 points).

    • Kobe Bryant scored 40 points -- his eighth career 40-point game in the playoffs (second this postseason). That's the third most 40-point games among active players.

    • The Nuggets fell to 2-15 (.118) in Game 1 road games since entering the NBA in 1976-77. With the loss, Denver now owns the lowest winning percentage among franchises that have played at least 15 Game 1 road games. Portland held the mark at 3-21 (Denver's only two Game 1 victories on the road came in San Antonio in 2005 and 2007).

    • Carmelo Anthony scored 16 of his 39 points in the first quarter. It was his second-highest scoring performance in a postseason game (had 41 points in his last road game at Dallas). Four of his top five scoring games have come on the road. Anthony tied the Nuggets' record of four 30-point games in a row, set by Alex English in 1985.

    -- ESPN Stats & Information

    He did it even with an injury.

    Bryant had the right ring finger on his shooting hand taped after the game. He dislocated it against Cleveland in January and had to have it popped back in place Tuesday.

    "He was the scoring opportunity for us," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had very little else going on. He muscled his way through."

    Pau Gasol added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who faced a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Gasol's two free throws tied the game for the last time at 99 before Bryant started his closing streak at the line, offsetting a 3-pointer by Chauncey Billups and a free throw by J.R. Smith.

    Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points and Billups added 18 for the Nuggets, who hadn't played since taking care of Dallas in five games last Wednesday.

    "There's no moral victories in playoff basketball," Denver coach George Karl said. "The next 48 hours are going to be difficult."

    Game 2 is Thursday at Staples Center. The Nuggets have lost 11 consecutive playoff games to the Lakers, including a first-round sweep last season.

    Bryant, who was 9 for 9 from the line in the fourth quarter, made two for a 101-99 lead with 30 seconds left. Trevor Ariza stole the inbounds pass near midcourt and the Lakers were able to run the clock down to 10 seconds when Bryant made two more free throws.

    "He threw the ball and gave me just enough air to go get it," Ariza said of the steal of Anthony Carter. "That's all it took."

    Billups hit a 3-pointer to get the Nuggets to 103-102 with 5 seconds left, but then Anthony fouled Bryant, who made his final two foul shots.

    2009 NBA Playoffs

    Want an in-depth look at the Nuggets-Lakers series? Check out all the stats, analysis and opinion here:

    • Nuggets-Lakers page

    "They have the best closer in the sport and we didn't do enough," Karl said.

    Smith made one free throw with 3.2 seconds left and missed the second intentionally. Bryant grabbed the game's last rebound.

    "Any great player would love that moment, get the ball in their hands every time down the court and make something happen," Anthony said.

    The Lakers were back in action 48 hours after closing out Houston in seven games in the conference semifinals.

    "We won that game on energy and gutting it out," Jackson said. "They outmuscled us and put pressure on the passers. We talked about getting the game close enough to win it at the end. We got a couple stops that helped us."

    Denver led most of the game in its return to the conference finals for the first time in 24 years. But the Nuggets couldn't stop Bryant over the final 6:48, when he scored 15 points, including seven straight to help the Lakers improve to 7-1 at home in the playoffs. They are 8-0 this postseason when scoring 100 points.

    "You get used to greatness," Lamar Odom said. "He was amazing. He wanted the ball. Kobe is always going to help you or bail you out more than he hurts you."

    Bryant got the better of Anthony, his U.S. Olympic teammate.

    "It was a lot of fun, he's a bull down there," Bryant said. "I am a little out of my weight class, but I'll give it my best shot."

    The Lakers used a 9-0 run, including seven straight by Derek Fisher, to go up 70-66. From there, though, the Nuggets ended the third quarter on a 10-4 run to lead 76-74. Billups had five consecutive points, including a free throw after a technical foul on Bryant, in the spurt.

    Bryant has five technicals in the playoffs. "I won't get another one," he vowed.

    The Nuggets took a 13-point lead in the opening quarter, but hurt themselves by going 12 of 21 from the line in the half. Billups, who missed three free throws in the first two playoff series combined, missed his first three of the game.

    "We missed out on a great opportunity to steal this game," he said. "We lose this game on our poor free throw shooting."

    Game notes

    Smith sprained his right knee and will be re-evaluated Wednesday. ... The Nuggets fell to 2-3 on the road in the playoffs. ... Denver F-G Linas Kleiza played despite a fracture on the tip of his right thumb.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 103 105
    FGM-FGA 36-74 (.486) 37-90 (.411)
    3PM-3PA 8-19 (.421) 11-25 (.440)
    FTM-FTA 23-35 (.657) 20-24 (.833)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-37 17-46
    Assists 24 25
    Turnovers 15 16
    Steals 9 7
    Blocks 8 9
    Fast Break Points 7 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 26 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 13 4

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Carmelo Anthony Anthony
    Points: 39
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 40
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1