Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series starts 11/2

Game 1: Tuesday, November 2nd
Game 2: Sunday, January 2nd
Game 3: Wednesday, January 12th
Game 4: Thursday, March 24th

Nuggets 78

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Lakers 89

(1-0, 1-0 home)

7:30 PM ET, November 2, 2004

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 14 17 26 2178
LAL 24 26 22 1789

Top Performers

Denver: K. Martin 13 Pts, 7 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk

Los Angeles: K. Bryant 25 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

Newcomers balance Lakers scoring

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers can be successful without having Kobe Bryant be the whole show. They certainly were in their first game as Bryant's team.

Bryant had 25 points, seven assists and three blocked shots, and Chris Mihm added a career-high 23 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday night as the Lakers never trailed in beating the Denver Nuggets 89-78.

"It was fun. We had a blast out there, especially defensively," Bryant said following the Lakers' first game in eight years without Shaquille O'Neal on their roster.

It was also Rudy Tomjanovich's first game as the Lakers' coach. He succeeded Phil Jackson, who coached the team to three championships and another berth in the NBA Finals in five years.

"I'm glad that's over," Tomjanovich said with a big smile. "I thought our defense was just excellent. That's what we need to be a running team."

The Nuggets, one of the NBA's most improved teams last season, shot a horrific 34.1 percent (30-of-88) including 25 percent (11-of-44) in the first half.

Caron Butler added 11 points, Brian Cook scored 10 and Lamar Odom had 13 rebounds for the Lakers. Butler and Odom were acquired from Miami along with Brian Grant for O'Neal during the offseason.

Bryant shot just 5-of-14 but made 14 of 15 foul shots. He scored 17 points after halftime.

"We really did well with our execution and our ball movement," Bryant said. "We competed hard and we played together, and that pleased me very much. We prepared very well. We knew what they were going to do defensively and we worked off it."

The Lakers led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter before the Nuggets rallied within seven in the final minute. But that's as close as they would get.

Voshon Lenard scored 13 points for the Nuggets before tearing his left Achilles' tendon with 4:42 left in the third quarter. He will undergo surgery and probably be sidelined for the season, a team spokeswoman said.

A downcast Lenard declined comment after the game.

"Losing Voshon is the worst," Marcus Camby said. "Losing a game, I mean, we weren't going to go 82-0. We just have to regroup, get better.

"My stomach dropped. I feel for the guy. It's the first game of the season and he's maybe done for a long time. I just hope for the best for the guy. It's really hard to come back from an injury like that, but he's still going to be with us in spirit and in our hearts."

Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 20 points. Kenyon Martin, playing his first game for the Nuggets, had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Camby had 16 rebounds and six blocked shots to go with eight points.

"This wasn't the real Nuggets team, especially in that first half, but give the Lakers credit," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "I'm sure they had a lot to do with it."

Baskets by Bryant and Butler in the opening minute of the third quarter put the Lakers on top 54-31. Bryant scored eight points in the final five minutes of the quarter, helping the Lakers extend their lead to 72-57.

Bryant spoke briefly before the opening tipoff, thanking fans for their support. Then, instead of taking over the offense as many expected, he deferred to Mihm, who had 19 points and nine rebounds in the first half as the Lakers took a 50-31 lead.

"This is a good situation -- a good fit for me on this team," Mihm said. "It's a great start for the season. I'm a happy man, I can sleep well tonight. I played well and more important, the team won."

Game notes

The Lakers have won 12 of their last 13 home openers and 15 of their last 16 home games against the Nuggets. ... Denver went from 17-65 two years ago to 43-39 and a playoff berth last season. "The next jump, I think, is going to be more difficult," Bzdelik said. ... The Lakers have only four players on their active roster returning from last season -- Bryant, third-year guard Kareem Rush, and second-year forwards Cook and Luke Walton. ... The Nuggets have four newcomers -- Martin, DerMarr Johnson, Greg Buckner and Bryon Russell, who played for the Lakers last season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 78 89
FGM-FGA 30-88 (.341) 30-70 (.429)
3PM-3PA 3-12 (.250) 5-17 (.294)
FTM-FTA 15-21 (.714) 24-30 (.800)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 16-48 10-47
Assists 17 23
Turnovers 17 19
Steals 10 8
Blocks 8 9
Fast Break Points 2 7
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 22 (1/0)

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Kenyon Martin Martin
Points: 13
Reb: 7
Ast: 5
Stl: 4
Blk: 2
Kobe Bryant Bryant
Points: 25
Reb: 4
Ast: 7
Stl: 1
Blk: 3