Kleiza provides relief for Nuggets

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Linas Kleiza went scoreless in Game 1. The reserve forward came up big for the Denver Nuggets in their 106-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers last night that evened the Western Conference finals.

Kleiza finished with 16 points, including going 4 for 7 from 3-point range, and grabbed eight rebounds in what was easily the best postseason performance of his career. He played 22 minutes, more than triple the time he saw in Game 1.

Dahntay Jones picked up three early fouls and headed for the bench and J.R. Smith was limited because of a calf strain. Chris Andersen only had two points off the bench for the Nuggets.

That gave Kleiza, a native of Lithuania who played at Missouri, an opportunity he jumped on.

Kleiza's 3-pointer with 10:48 to go gave the Nuggets an 85-82 lead, their first of the game. He was a key part of a 16-4 run to close the first half that helped Denver overcome a 14-point deficit early in the second quarter to get within 55-54 at halftime.

His production was something the Lakers could have used from their reserves, who managed a total of 22 points, 10 from Lamar Odom and eight from Shannon Brown.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)