The Los Angeles Lakers produced a second-half comeback to beat the Denver Nuggets 95-89 on Sunday and record their first victory over their Western Conference rivals this season. Lamar Odom recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds off the bench and Kobe Bryant made up for a poor shooting day with 12 assists as the Lakers came from 11 points down in the third quarter to triumph in a clash of the top teams in their conference.
"Mentally we had to let them know that if we play the right way we can beat them," Odom said. "Teams you feel like you're going to see down the road, you want to let them know you can beat them." Los Angeles trailed for most of the game before Bryant, who made just three baskets from 17 attempts from the floor, made two free throws to give his team a 91-89 edge with 3:02 remaining. "It was nice to be in somewhat of a pressure-cooker," Bryant said.
"It's been two years now where we've beaten them in the post-season, so I'm sure they're fed up. "They played with a lot of energy and intensity, and we had to step up against them. It was a play-off type of intensity." Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 21 points for Denver before fouling out with 2:19 remaining. The Nuggets (39-20) had beaten the Lakers (45-15) in their two previous meetings this season.
"They slowed our offence down," said George Karl, the Nuggets coach. "They picked up the pressure on us in the second half and we didn't have the perseverance to pass the ball or penetrate before the pressure came. "Our whole thing with Kobe was to try to plug him and keep him away from the rim and off the free throw line. We got that done pretty much the whole game." Phoenix's Jason Richardson, the two-time NBA slam dunk champ-ion, missed a dunk with just more than 40 seconds left as the Suns lost 113-110 to the San Antonio Spurs.
"I don't like to miss dunks, especially in crunch time like that, but it's one of those things that happens," Richardson said. "You can't do anything about it." "That's a tough play to swallow, but it's not the play that determines the game," Alvin Gentry, the Phoenix coach, said. "There were other plays over the course of 48 minutes that if we would have made, maybe that play doesn't count so much."
Amare Stoudemire had a season-high 41 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix, but thanks to Richardson's gaffe and the Suns letting the final buzzer sound before getting a final shot off, the Spurs ended their Western Conference rival's five-game winning streak. "We had a chance to win down the stretch. It's tough," Stoudemire said. * With agencies