x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Nuggets even proceedings

The Denver Nuggets level the Western Conference finals at 2-2, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 120-101 in Game 4.

Chauncy Billups of the Denver Nuggets celebrates dunks during his team's win over the LA Lakers.
Chauncy Billups of the Denver Nuggets celebrates dunks during his team's win over the LA Lakers.

DENVER // The Denver Nuggets levelled the Western Conference finals, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 120-101 in Game 4. Chauncey Billups and JR Smith both scored 24 points and Kenyon Martin posted a double double as the Nuggets claimed their eighth blowout of the postseason but a first against Los Angeles following three games that came down to the final seconds. The Nuggets did not need to worry about a botched inbounds pass in the closing seconds like the ones that cost them wins in Games 1 and 3, although Kobe Bryant had another monster fourth quarter in a furious attempt to put a stranglehold on the series that shifts to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Bryant, who is averaging 37 points in the series, scored 34, including 14 in the fourth quarter. His work threatened the Nuggets until Smith hit back-to-back dagger 3-pointers for a 113-96 cushion. Carmelo Anthony finished with a hard-fought 15 points, and Martin had 13 points and 15 boards. The game featured four technical fouls and 84 free throws, 49 by Denver. Anthony's shooting slump continued as he went 3-for-16 and missed his first 10 shots.

Making matters worse, he turned his right ankle in the first half. At the break, he needed fluids and had his ankle retaped, then returned with a dogged determination to help the Nuggets. Bryant and Pau Gasol (21 points) kept the Lakers within striking distance. The Lakers cut a 16-point deficit to 102-92 on four Bryant free throws with 3 minutes 49 seconds left thanks to technicals on Martin and Anthony.

The Nuggets relied on a balanced attack with Anthony ailing - seven players scored in double digits - and while they still were not very good from the floor (44 per cent), they did work the ball around for better looks, attacked the lane more and got to the line. *AP