Lakers 122, Nuggets 107

By: AP
By: AP

It doesn't pay to make Kobe Bryant angry.

Kenyon Martin and the Denver Nuggets learned that lesson in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant scored 19 points in a span of 4:19 of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, and the Lakers beat the Nuggets 122-107 to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Games 3 and 4 will be in Denver on Saturday and Monday night.
Bryant finished with 49 points and 10 assists -- one shy of his career playoff high in both categories.

There was some trash talking between Bryant and Martin, Denver's 6-foot-9 forward who had the assignment of guarding the Lakers' star in the first two games.

"He's one of those players that you don't really want to make mad," teammate Lamar Odom said. "He can make shots from anywhere with people on him. I was surprised (Martin was talking at him). You never want to wake a sleeping giant. He can hit shots on anybody, on a number of defenders anywhere on the floor.

"Talking to him is a surprise to me, but guys are competitors too, so sometimes you get caught up in it. Kobe was definitely coming out to prove a point."

Bryant shot just 9-for-26 in scoring 32 points in Game 1. He went 18-for-27 in Game 2.

"Tonight, the way he was going, we probably could have put 10 people on the court and probably wouldn't have been able to stop him," said Nuggets star Allen Iverson, who wasn't bad himself, getting 31 points and six assists.

"I didn't realize it, I didn't even know it," Bryant said when told about his scoring spree. "We were just getting into a rhythm, getting into a groove. It feels like when you get hot, the ball just finds you."

In other NBA playoff action Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 96-77 to take a 2-0 lead in their series, and the Detroit Pistons topped Philadelphia 105-88 to even that series 1-1.

The Lakers led 89-79 entering the fourth quarter. The Nuggets drew within five points three times before a three-point play by Bryant with 6:41 remaining made it 101-93.

That was only the beginning.

Two free throws by Bryant in a span of two seconds after technical fouls against J.R. Smith and Iverson made it 105-94 with 5:37 left, and Bryant added a 3-pointer 18 seconds later to extend the Los Angeles lead to 14.

Game over.

"The 3-ball he made was the big play," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I thought that kind of ended the game from the standpoint of our spirit. In a lot of ways, a great player ran us out of gas. The majority of his jump shots that he made tonight are somewhat undefendable."

Bryant kept it going before his hot spell ended with 2:22 left when he made a three-point play, giving the Lakers a 120-101 lead. He came out for good 20 seconds later to a loud ovation and chants of "MVP, MVP" from the capacity crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.

Bryant was replaced by Coby Karl, the son of the Denver coach. It was the first time in NBA playoff history that a father has coached against his son.

Regarding the trash talk, Bryant said: "I say it is an added challenge where there is a lot of talking going on. It's fun and I sure enjoyed it, and I think my teammates enjoy it. It's something that we all feed off of."

Martin said he was glad the Nuggets are headed home.

"We played well at home all season, so it's comfortable for us," he said. "We need to win."

As far as Bryant is concerned, Martin said: "You just make it as tough as possible and contest his shot. If he makes it, he makes it, and if he misses, he misses. They went in tonight for him."

Pau Gasol added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Luke Walton scored 18 points for the Lakers. Odom, hampered by foul trouble throughout the second half, was held to four points, four rebounds and six assists, but in the end it didn't matter.

Carmelo Anthony added 23 points, J.R. Smith had a career playoff high with 21 and Marcus Camby had 17 rebounds and four blocked shots for Denver. Martin, who fouled out with 5:47 remaining, scored 10 points.


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