Nuggets down Lakers to even series

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DENVER, May 26 – The Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 120-101 on Monday to even their National Basketball Association Western Conference final series at two games apiece.DENVER_NUGGETSChauncey Billups scored 24 points and a determined Denver made sure they didn’t let another late lead get away against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.

Denver’s Carmelo Anthony was slowed by a sore ankle and a stomach bug, finishing with 15 points on 3-of-16 shooting.

He missed his first 10 shots and had just one field goal and seven points midway through the third quarter.

Anthony twisted his ankle early in the second quarter tangling with Bryant.

But the Nuggets reserves came up big, with JR Smith scoring 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.

Linas Kleiza added 10 points and Chris Andersen grabbed 14 rebounds as Denver out-rebounded the Lakers 58-40.

Both Kenyon Martin and Nene notched double-doubles. Martin had 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Brazilian Nene had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets.

Bryant scored a game-high 34 points, while Pau Gasol scored 21 points with 10 rebounds for Los Angeles.

But the Lakers’ run of eight straight playoff victories in Denver was halted. Los Angeles host game five of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday.

Bryant scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, trying hard to carry the Lakers to a victory that would put them on the brink of advancing to the NBA finals.

The Lakers narrowed a 16-point deficit to 102-92 on four free throws from Bryant with less than four minutes to play.

"We did OK," Bryant said. "The score didn’t indicate how competitive the game was."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted Los Angeles had to turn to Bryant in the end.

"Yes, those are actions we have to go to, and they’re drastic actions," he said.

But Bryant was drained after engineering a late surge to a game three victory, needing IV fluids after that game.

"It’s foolish to deny it. He could barely stand up," Jackson said prior to Monday’s contest.
Bryant said playing from behind was "more tiring."

"But physically, I felt OK today," he said. "There were certain stretches where I was a bit winded but, all in all, I felt pretty damn good."

Smith helped make sure Bryant didn’t bring the Lakers back this time, however, draining back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Nuggets a 113-96 lead.

"It just shows we have heart and can play with a man down," Smith said. "We did a lot this year and kept it up."

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