LOS ANGELES, May 22 – Carmelo Anthony had 34 points and Chauncey Billups scored 13 of his 27 from the free-throw line as Denver defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in game two of their NBA semi-final playoff series.Kenyon Martin had 16 points for the Nuggets who not only levelled the best of seven Western Conference final at 1-1 but also posted their first playoff win over the Lakers in 24 years.
"I was in a zone making shots," Anthony said. "Scoring is something I can always do."
Denver let game one slip away after controlling the play for most of the contest. This time the Lakers saw their lead disappear behind the the Nuggets aggressive attack.
"We probably returned the favour," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
Billups said the Nuggets did a better job Thursday of bottling up Bryant and making sure they didn’t give the Lakers an easy three pointers in the final minute.
"We got a lot tougher in the final two minutes," Billups said. "We didn’t do that in game one. We learned from game one."
The series shifts to Denver for game three where the Nuggets will try to take command of the series.
There was no last-second heroics this time for the Lakers just couple of hiccups as Trevor Ariza had a key turnover off a jump ball won by Los Angeles and Derek Fisher missed a couple of three pointers including one at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
"The series is going to come down to stops," said Bryant who led the Lakers with 32 points. "Today’s game came down to free throws. It was a free throw shooting contest."
Billups made three of four free throws down the stretch and Martin drove to the basket for a key layup with 29 seconds remaining to silence the sold out crowd at the Staples Center arena.
Anthony went head-to-head against Bryant in a matchup of two of the league’s superstars.
"It may look like we are beating each other up," Bryant said. "We are just playing our games."
The Lakers had won the previous 11 playoff contests over the Nuggets dating back to 1985.
Linas Kleiza added 16 points for the Nuggets who got a scare Thursday when Anthony twisted his ankle.
Anthony said he will get treatment on the foot and it should be back to normal for game three.
"I will be OK for game three," Anthony said. "It was bothering me out on the court but not right now."
Ariza scored a career playoff-high 20 and Pau Gasol 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Lakers, who squandered a big second quarter lead to go into the half with a one point advantage.
"They had us in a bad place in the first half but we kept fighting," said Billups.