Nuggets finally solve Lakers, even series

BY foxsports • May 22, 2009

Similar game, different ending for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Their 24-year playoff dominance of the Denver Nuggets dissipated over the final 29 seconds of the fourth quarter in the second down-to-the-wire game in the Western Conference finals.

That's when Kenyon Martin hit a layup in traffic and Chauncey Billups made 3 of 4 free throws to give Denver a 106-103 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night to even the series.

"It's going to be a long series," Nuggets coach George Karl said.

It was Denver's first playoff win against Los Angeles since 1985, a span of 11 games, the second-longest postseason winning streak against one team in NBA history.

"There was just a demand that we had to win this game," Karl said. "There was an inner spirit. We're a much more smart, mentally tough team than you look at last year and what we are now. It's a great win."

Carmelo Anthony had 34 points and 14 rebounds, Billups had 27 points and 16 rebounds and Linas Kleiza added 16 points for the Nuggets. Nene finished with six points, nine rebounds and six assists.

"To get one on the road is always tough. We came in and got it," Anthony said. "We're mentally tough and we showed that in this game coming off the loss that we gave away in Game 1."

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Anthony twisted his ankle in the game, but he said he would be fine for Game 3 Saturday in Denver.

Kobe Bryant had 32 points, including making all 10 of his free throws, Trevor Ariza scored a career playoff-high 20 points and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Lakers, who dropped to 7-2 at Staples Center this postseason.

"They have home court advantage now. Now it's time to go to Denver, see if we can do the same," Bryant said. "We're not the best road team in the NBA for no reason."

The Nuggets recovered from poor free throw shooting in a two-point loss in Game 1 to make 17 consecutive foul shots until Billups missed one with 4 seconds remaining. He made the second for the three-point lead.

"I want to kill Chauncey for missing that free throw," Karl said.

Derek Fisher launched a 3-pointer from the right corner that Nene got a piece of as time expired.

"Nene had a great contest," Billups said. "I don't think Fisher got a good chance to get a good look on the shot. Nonetheless, I was down there trying to rebound and trying to get my hands on the ball again, try to get back on that free throw line."

Fisher thought he did get a good look.

"I figured they were going to try to foul to prevent us from shooting a 3," he said. "I got rid of it a little quicker than I probably had to. Definitely don't want to put yourself in a position where you need that kind of shot to try and tie the game."

Tied at 101, Martin made the layup off Nene's assist that gave the Nuggets the lead for good.

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