A stifling defensive effort and 31 points from Carmelo Anthony lifted the Denver Nuggets to a 98-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. The Nuggets overcame a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter, forcing three turnovers in the final minutes before Anthony blocked Derek Fisher's three-point attempt as time expired. "That felt just as good as hitting the game-winner," Anthony said.
"It was meant for me to be out there and play defence on that last play. I made the block and saved us." Denver (52-27) won their fourth straight game to move into second place in the crowded NBA Western conference play-off race, half a game in front of Dallas and Phoenix. Los Angeles (55-23) played without Kobe Bryant, who was rested, leaving Pau Gasol to take the lead with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Preparing to defend their title in the play-offs, the Lakers have appeared out of sync in losing four of their last five games. Ron Artest chipped in 22 for the Lakers, who were already without centre Andrew Bynum, sidelined with a foot injury. Phil Jackson, the Lakers' coach, said that Bryant was given the option to rest and made a late decision to sit the game out after he had struggled in his previous two outings.
Derrick Rose scored 24 points and Kirk Hinrich had 23 as the Chicago Bulls gave their play-off hopes a major boost with a 109-108 win over the NBA's overall league leader, the Cleveland Cavaliers. "It's a big win," Hinrich said. "We definitely needed it. We let a lot of opportunities slip by and it just feels good to take advantage of it." The Bulls moved into an eighth-place tie with Toronto in the Eastern conference with one more meeting between the teams remaining this season.
* Reuters and AP