Regular Season Series (Game 3 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

Lakers 83

(18-15, 6-9 away)

Nuggets 95

(15-20, 11-8 home)

    Coverage: ALT

    7:00 PM ET, January 12, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

    1 2 3 4 T
    LAL 21 14 27 2183
    DEN 23 26 25 2195

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles: K. Bryant 16 Pts, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

    Denver: K. Martin 18 Pts, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Blk

    Bryant can't repeat 42-point performance; Nuggets snap skid

    DENVER (AP) -- Kobe Bryant has always had a knack for rising to the occasion, hitting game-winning shots after spending the day in a courtroom or scoring in bunches through choruses of boos.

    It wasn't expected to be any different when he returned to Colorado for the first time since sexual assault charges against him were dropped.

    This time, though, the Denver Nuggets never game him a chance.

    Denver built a big early lead and held Bryant mostly in check, ending a five-game losing streak with a 95-83 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

    "The Nuggets just collapsed and forced me to keep the ball and we just weren't hitting shots," Bryant said. "Sometimes you are going to have nights like that. You just have to move on."

    Bryant was accused of sexual assault in June 2003, though he never missed a step on the court.

    He played four times last season after spending the day in court and was superb in each, hitting a shot at the buzzer to beat the Nuggets and pouring in 42 points against San Antonio in the playoffs. Bryant also averaged 31 points in two games in Denver despite constant boos and chants of "Guilty! Guilty!"

    The charges against Bryant were dropped on Sept. 1 because the woman said she couldn't go through with the trial, so it made sense that he'd have another big night in Denver -- especially after he scored 42 points in a 99-91 Lakers' victory on Jan. 2.

    The Nuggets made sure it never happened.

    DerMarr Johnson and Greg Buckner, who missed the last Nuggets-Lakers meeting, took turns hounding Bryant, and Denver threw plenty of double-teams at him to prevent another scoring outburst.

    A 20-point lead by the third quarter certainly helped, and Bryant made things easier on the Nuggets by deferring to his teammates instead of taking shots down the stretch.

    Bryant had 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but took just 14 shots and wasn't much of a factor in the second half.

    "It was a lot of people," Johnson said. "You can't guard him alone. You need the help of teammates to keep him under control."

    Bryant's teammates didn't help much, going 5-for-29 on 3-pointers and shooting 37 percent against a team that spent 10 hours getting back from Sacramento the night before.

    "There was no response from the guys tonight," Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.

    Denver should have been sluggish after a nightmarish trip back from Sacramento that included fog delays, a pilot overshooting the runway and three-hour bus ride through snow.

    Instead, the Nuggets played their most complete game yet under interim coach Michael Cooper.

    Crisp on offense and swarming on defense, Denver took control with a 16-1 in the second quarter and never gave the Lakers much of chance after that, building the lead to 20 before Los Angeles chipped away with its starters on the bench.

    Carmelo Anthony had his best shooting night in weeks, scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Andre Miller added 15 points and seven assists and Marcus Camby had 15 rebounds for Denver, which won for just the third time in 16 games.

    "Sometimes events like we through have a way of bringing people together," Cooper said. "We spent a long time together on a plane, on a bus. It obviously had some results."

    Bryant played through a chorus of insults in the two games in Denver last season, and heard plenty more jeers this time around. He was greeted by resounding boos during pre-game introductions and heard it every time he touched the ball.

    But not everyone was anti-Kobe.

    There was plenty of Lakers' purple and gold in the stands, including numerous No. 8 jerseys, and camera phones flipped open in all corners of the arena. A handful of fans behind the Lakers' bench even cheered every time Bryant scored.

    They just didn't have much to cheer about.

    Bryant had 11 points and four assists by halftime, but just didn't seem interested in keeping it going. He took just five shots in the second half and spent the game's final five minutes on the bench with the rest of the starters.

    "It is not a big deal for me," Bryant said. "I have a lot of support out here and it's not like you can please everybody all the time. Some people are not going to like me, and some do. This game was really not on my mind, it's just coming in and playing in another city."

    Game notes

    Denver Broncos Al Wilson, Ashley Lelie, Rod Smith, Matt Lepsis and former Broncos player Jarious Jackson attended the game. ... Denver ended its streak of trailing by at least 10 points at 12 games. ... The Lakers had won four straight against Denver.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 83 95
    FGM-FGA 28-74 (.378) 38-80 (.475)
    3PM-3PA 5-29 (.172) 1-8 (.125)
    FTM-FTA 22-32 (.688) 18-22 (.818)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-42 9-45
    Assists 18 24
    Turnovers 17 11
    Steals 4 8
    Blocks 6 3
    Fast Break Points 13 14
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 23 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 3 20

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 16
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 2
    Kenyon Martin Martin
    Points: 18
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 3