<
>

'Melo matches Kobe, but Rush 3 the difference

2/26/2004

DENVER (AP) -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson considered
pulling Kareem Rush from the game. He's glad he didn't.

Rush hit a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left, lifting the Lakers
to a controversial 112-111 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday
night.

Kobe Bryant, playing his second game in Denver since being
charged with sexually assaulting a woman at a Colorado resort last
summer, had 35 points and 10 assists as the Lakers won their fifth
straight game.

Carmelo Anthony had 35 points for Denver, whose losing streak
was stretched to a season-high four games.

The Lakers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the fourth
quarter, battled back behind Bryant and Gary Payton. Los Angeles
cut the deficit to two points on three occasions, the last time
when Luke Walton stole the ball and hit a layup to make it 111-109
with 53 seconds remaining.

Denver's Andre Miller appeared to brush the rim with a shot that
barely beat the shot clock and Anthony rebounded, but the whistle
blew for a shot-clock violation. The officials huddled and ruled it
was an inadvertent whistle, resulting in a jump ball with 27
seconds left.

Los Angeles' Shaquille O'Neal, jumping against Nene, tipped the
ball to Payton. Walton drove the lane and kicked the ball out to
Rush, who followed with the clincher. Miller missed a desperation
shot at the end.

"I almost gave up on Kareem because he made a turnover at
half-court," Jackson said. "I told him to go back out there and
settle down. He's an effective shooter for us, and I have
confidence in his game.

"That was an interesting finish. I have to conclude that even I
was confused on that last whistle. We were lucky to get the jump
ball and win the ballgame from there."

Rush said he thought he might be open because the Lakers' big
guns would be double-teamed.

"The play was designed for Kobe to create something," Rush
said, "and he got doubled. I'm running around, trying to find an
open spot. Luke found me and I took the shot. I've knocked down
that shot a thousand times in my life, but I haven't been in that
position since college."

Referring to his rebound, Anthony said, "I had the ball in my
hands before the whistle sounded. They robbed us of one tonight."

Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik agreed.

"It's a shame the game ended like it did," he said. "They
told me it was an inadvertent whistle and they felt bad. But they
can walk away and they're on to the next city. There is no `L' or
`W' next to their names."

Bryant, booed unmercifully on Jan. 7 here, received a somewhat
warmer greeting Wednesday night. He received a mixture of boos and
cheers during pregame introductions, and while he was frequently
booed when he touched the ball, he also was cheered after scoring.

"The crowd tonight was better than it was the first time
here," Bryant said. "I try not to pay attention to that stuff too
much, just go out and play. Tonight I think I was received just
like any other player."

O'Neal had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who were
outshot 56 percent to 52 percent. Miller added 21 points for
Denver.

Anthony and Bryant each scored 11 points in the first quarter as
the Nuggets took a 28-25 lead. Denver erased a 10-6 deficit with a
10-3 run, which started with Anthony's driving layup and ended with
his 3-pointer.

The Nuggets shot 77 percent (13 for 17) in the second quarter to
forge a 62-50 halftime lead.

An 8-0 run early in the quarter which included back-to-back
3-pointers by Jon Barry put Denver ahead 36-28. The Lakers had
their own 8-0 surge, including three straight layups by Bryant, to
cut the deficit to 40-39 with 6:33 left.

But Denver outscored Los Angeles 22-11 over the remainder of the
period. Voshon Lenard had eight points during the flurry, and his
long jumper off the glass gave Denver its biggest lead of the half,
60-47.

Denver boosted its lead to 15 points early in the third quarter
and led 88-77 entering the final period.

Anthony's fast-break slam dunk put Denver up 100-87 with 7:13
left. But the Lakers scored the next 11 points, including four by
Payton. Denver still held a 109-102 lead with 2:29 left, but Payton
hit a turnaround jumper and Bryant a 3-pointer prior to Walton's
basket.

Game notes
Bryant was named Western Conference player of the week
after averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5
steals in four games. ... The Lakers have won eight of their last
11 road games. ... Anthony moved to second place in Denver's rookie
scoring list with 1,185 points. LaPhonso Ellis is first with 1,205
points in the 1992-93 season. ... Denver's Marcus Camby played
sparingly in the second half because of a strained right groin. ...
The crowd of 19,812 was the largest ever for a Nuggets game.