DENVER (AP) -- Sitting on the bench at the end of yet another
agonizing loss, Kobe Bryant was stoic as a fan repeatedly yelled
"Kobe, how's your wife?"
Talk about pouring it on.
DerMarr Johnson had 20 points and took turns with Greg Buckner
harassing Bryant into a quiet second half, helping the Denver
Nuggets send the Los Angeles Lakers to their longest losing streak
in 11 years with a 117-96 rout Thursday night.
"It's frustrating for me because I've played on teams where
everybody knew the depths of the offense," Bryant said. "At the
same time, we have to be patient. We're a young team and even
though it may not pay off this year, it may pay off the following
Bryant had always played well in Colorado, where he was charged
with sexual assault two summers ago. Though he no longer has to
deal with the allegations -- the criminal case was dismissed and a
civil suit was dropped earlier this month -- his team is in
Once in control of a playoff spot, the Lakers are rapidly
playing themselves out of contention. Los Angeles has lost six
straight road games, seven straight overall and has dropped 5½
games behind Denver for the West's final playoff spot after leading
the Nuggets by six games two months ago.
"I thought our guys quit in the second half," Lakers coach
Frank Hamblen said. "I'm not mad at them, I am just real
disappointed in them. It's their livelihood."
As for the Nuggets, they can't seem to do anything wrong.
Dashing up and down the floor with their usual flair, the
Nuggets put a ragged start behind them and turned a close game into
a rout by the midpoint of the third quarter.
Playing in front of a franchise-record crowd of 19,866, Denver
went on 12-1 run spanning halftime to go up 59-49, then pushed the
lead to 76-61 on Johnson's 3-pointer from the corner with three
minutes left to pull away.
Earl Boykins had 20 points, Andre Miller had 18 points and six
assists, and Carmelo Anthony added 16 points for the Nuggets, who
have won five straight and 13 of 14 to move three games ahead of
Minnesota for the West's final playoff spot.
"We're good. I don't want to sound cocky, but we're good,"
Especially against Bryant.
Bryant received the same treatment he had gotten his previous
four trips to Colorado: plenty of boos from introductions to every
time he touched the ball.
He didn't seem bothered. Bryant spent the Nuggets' introductions
stretching in a walkway next to the Lakers' bench, chatting and
shaking hands with a few supportive fans.
He started off the game great, slamming down a left-handed dunk
on his first shot, then adding a three-point play on a difficult
reverse to draw cheers from a the handful of Lakers fans at Los
Angeles' end of the court.
Bryant finished the first half 4-of-9 from the floor and hit all
six of his free throws, but couldn't get much going after that.
With Johnson and Buckner following him everywhere and the
Nuggets shading plenty of help into the middle, Bryant started off
by throwing a wild pass and had a hand in another turnover when he
dribbled around the perimeter until the Lakers were called for 3
Bryant also dribbled the ball off his leg in the open court and
was 1-for-4 in the half.
"I thought DJ's start on him was fantastic and Buck just kept
it going," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Bryant finished 5-of-13 for 18 points and had six turnovers,
spending the final 4½ minutes watching.
"We are trying, it's not like we aren't," Bryant said. "We
are playing hard and teams are just beating us."
Official Joe Crawford helped with clean-up duties during a
timeout in the second period, getting a piece of paper from a
courtside reporter to pull up some gum in front of the Lakers'
bench. ... The Lakers are 6-32 when their opponent scores 100
points. ... Los Angeles is on its longest losing streak since
dropping 10 straight to end the 1993-94 season.