Kleiza, Najera don't believe Nuggets 'quit' in Game 3 loss to Lakers

Updated: April 28, 2008, 8:31 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Not every Nugget shared Carmelo Anthony's sentiment that Denver "quit" during its 102-84 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series Saturday.

Carmelo Anthony

Anthony

According to Denver-area media reports, Nuggets forwards Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera said Anthony's sentiments came at a delicate juncture in the series; Denver is on the verge of being swept by the Lakers.

"I don't think the team quit," Kleiza told reporters. "I know you guys want to get guys when they're frustrated and say things they don't want to say. Nobody quit. We're all together."

"That's just frustration," Najera told The Denver Post. "I wouldn't necessarily call it quitting. Different guys, they are going to have different opinions, and you've got to respect that.

"But I felt that the game, we were there the whole time. Obviously, we got down 20 and it was a different mood, of course. I wouldn't necessarily call it quitting, but that's just his opinion."

After the loss, Anthony was clearly upset about both his own performance and that of his team.

"In a game like tonight, on our home court, us giving up as a whole is uncalled for," Anthony fumed. "Yeah. We quit. Everybody. From the coaches to the players, we quit. And I said it.

"I'm not blaming anyone. I'm not pointing the fingers at nobody. I didn't play worth a [expletive] tonight, and I can accept that. But as a competitor, there's no way that I should lay down and quit and lay down on my team like we did tonight."

Anthony said the Nuggets surrendered in the third quarter, although head coach George Karl didn't empty his bench until the fourth.

"You could just sense it," Anthony said. "I'm saying 'we,' because I'm part of this, too. I'm saying I quit. We all just gave up."

At least one teammate concurred.

"That's the way it seemed," Denver's Kenyon Martin said. "Everybody came out of the game. A.I. [Allen Iverson] came out, and he leads the league in minutes. It's frustrating."

"Well, I don't think I quit," Karl retorted, "… In the fourth quarter, I tried to find some answers. … I don't think that's a fair, I think Melo's emotional right now, he's frustrated right now, as we all are."

Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he never sensed the Nuggets had given up until the very end.

"Well, they're down 20-something points with two minutes to go," Bryant said. "But not until that point."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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