Amid heavy trade rumors surrounding the Denver Nuggets’ (24-18) Carmelo Anthony, the Los Angeles Lakers (32-13) traveled to the Mile High City on Friday night, looking to pick up a victory after being ousted by the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
While Anthony has been the primary subject of multiple trade scenarios this season (including some to the Lakers), the Lakers came into Denver more concerned with being on a one-game winning streak.
A three-point play by Anthony and a triple from Aaron Afflalo gave the Nuggets a 6-0 advantage over the Lakers to start the game.
To end the Lakers’ early scoring drought, Ron Artest converted a drop-step layup and was fouled on the shot, but missed the free throw and the three-point opportunity.
Andrew Bynum, who was playing with three different types of wraps on his elbow after hyperextending it during the Lakers’ loss to Dallas on Wednesday, split a pair of free throws to bring the Lakers within three, but Afflalo cooly nailed his second trey of the night to put the Nuggets back up by six, 9-3.
Refusing to let the game get out of their grasp less than halfway into the first period, Derek Fisher nailed a 3-pointer of his own and Gasol found Artest inside for a layup to bring the Lakers within one.
The Nuggets responded to the Lakers’ five unanswered points, with a run of their own, outscoring the Lakers 8-2 to extend their lead to seven.
After Anthony followed up a triple by Artest with a score in the paint, Kobe scored his first points of the quarter with 3:09 remaining, putting the scoreboard at 21-17 in Denver’s favor.
Two successful free throws from Anthony gave the Nuggets a six-point lead, but the Lakers went on a 5-2 run, pulling the Lakers within three, 25-22, after the opening 12 minutes of play.
The Lakers came out gunning to start the second period, and a 20-foot jumper by Lamar Odom gave them their first lead of the night, which was extended to four following a Steve Blake 3-pointer.
A long deuce from the Nuggets’ JR Smith ended the Lakers run, however, Bynum tipped in a miss by Shannon Brown and Odom knocked down a basket of his own to give the Lakers a 33-27 lead with 7:37 remaining in the half.
The two teams continued to play no defense and trade baskets, seeing Brown throw down a hammer in the open court and Afflalo hitting his third basket of the night from behind-the-arc.
Keeping their cushion over the Nuggets, the Lakers increased their lead to five after Luke Walton scored on a 11-foot jumper.
The Lakers’ buffer didn’t hold for long, as Anthony nailed a 14-footer to return the lead to the Nuggets.
Gasol scored on a layup to tie the game at 49, but with 27 seconds remaining in the half, Afflalo continued to stroke it from deep, as he hit his fourth three-ball of the night to put the Nuggets up 54-49 heading into halftime.
The third quarter was all Kobe Bryant, as he scored 14 points on six of 12 shooting in the period, helping the Lakers build their lead up to as much as 11.
After entering the period down five, the Lakers slowly mounted a comeback, and at the 8:36 mark, a score down low by Bynum allowed the purple and gold to regain the lead for good.
The Nuggets cut the Lakers down to as low as five points, however, Bryant and Gasol refused to let up, scoring the Lakers final 10 points of the period.
Denver’s Ty Lawson converted two free throws with 26 seconds left to bring the Nuggets within eight, but a lay in by Gasol at the buzzer gave the Lakers a 10-point lead heading into the fourth and final period.
Despite the Nuggets late-game efforts, the Lakers remained in control, and coasted to a 10-point victory, 107-97.
The Lakers used a balance scoring effort to overcome the Nuggets, seeing five different players score at least 15 points.
Both Gasol and Odom finished with double-doubles, notching 19 points/13 rebounds and 18 points/10 rebounds respectively.
Bryant filled the stat sheet for the Lakers, posting numbers of 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and one steal.
The Nuggets were led by Afflalo, who scored 22 points including six three-pointers.
After taking a three-day break to rest and regroup, the Lakers will enext take the court on Tuesday evening when they return to Los Angeles to play host to the Utah Jazz (27-16) at 7:30 p.m.