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Kobe nets 37 as Lakers trounce Nuggets

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Chris Mihm was so ineffective in the Los
Angeles Lakers' first two games of the season that he didn't even
play in the second half of Game 2.

He was way, way better Sunday night.

Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter,
Mihm had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Lakers beat the Denver
Nuggets 112-92 Sunday night.

The game was a rematch of the season-opener four days earlier in
Denver, which the Lakers won 99-97 on Bryant's 20-foot jumper with
0.6 seconds remaining in overtime. Bryant scored 33 points in that
game and 39 in a 122-112 loss to Phoenix the following night.

Mihm, who totaled 10 points and three rebounds in the first two
games, had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first period to help
the Lakers (2-1) take a 34-20 lead.

The Nuggets weren't closer than five points after that.

"I think tonight I played hard and smart, which was big for
me," Mihm said. "As a team, the guards did a real good job of
getting the ball into us. We came out the aggressors and got the
job done."

Lamar Odom added 20 and eight rebounds for the Lakers on his
26th birthday.

"We feel like we have a team that can do some things
defensively and make our opposition extremely uncomfortable, and
that is what we try to do," said Bryant, who also had eight
rebounds and five assists. "Defense is the key to winning
ballgames in this league. It was a good all-around performance by
us."

The Nuggets (1-3) certainly couldn't say the same.

"Defensively, they had a lot of control. We had no control,"
Denver coach George Karl said. "We're fine, we're a very good
team. The Lakers stole one and kicked us in one. We've just got to
start filling in the holes, hopefully staying together and building
confidence.

"The one thing about the first half, we didn't play together.
We are going to have to be more team-oriented and aggressive."

The Lakers shot 51.2 percent and outrebounded the Nuggets 46-32.
Denver shot 36.4 percent in the second half and 42.3 percent
overall. Both teams committed 20 turnovers.

"I liked the energy that we had to start the game," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said. "We got it going again in the third
quarter and finished with inspirational play."

Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 21 points and six rebounds.
Andre Miller added 20 points and six assists and Kenyon Martin
scored 17 points for the Nuggets.

"We didn't play team basketball," Denver's Earl Boykins said.
"Sharing the ball. Making good decisions. We didn't do that
tonight."

Miller made a three-point play to open the scoring in the fourth
quarter, drawing the Nuggets within six points. But the Lakers went
on a 12-4 run for a 90-76 lead with 8:36 to play. Laron Profit
capped the spurt with a 3-pointer -- his only points in the game.

Bryant scored six points in a span of 33 seconds to make it
102-85 with 4:11 remaining.

The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 9-2 to begin the third period
for a 62-46 lead. It was 76-62 when Anthony made a three-point play
and Voshon Lenard added a four-point play 21 seconds later to draw
the Nuggets within seven. Los Angeles led 78-69 entering the final
period.

The Lakers led 53-44 at halftime thanks mainly to a 54.1 percent
shooting performance and a 20-12 rebounding advantage.

Bryant scored five straight points to snap a 10-all tie and put
the Lakers ahead for good.<
^Notes@: The Lakers have won seven straight games over Denver at
Staples Center, and 15 of the last 19 overall against the Nuggets.
... It appears Lakers F Luke Walton will return to action during
the team's upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Tuesday night
in Atlanta. Walton, who injured his left hamstring Oct. 11 in the
preseason opener, returned to practice Friday and said he's doing
fine. "There's a chance he'll play by next Friday," Jackson said.
... Karl, suspended for the season's first two games for violating
rules that forbid contact with players not eligible for the NBA
draft, smiled when asked how he handled his absence. "Very
poorly," he replied. "Once game-time came around, it was
miserable. I broke a rule, and I hurt my team because of it." Karl
returned Friday night, and the Nuggets beat Portland 107-68. They
were 0-2 under assistant Scott Brooks.