LOS ANGELES, California, May 2 – Kobe Bryant scored 38 points and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated Denver 104-100, seizing a two games to none lead over the Nuggets in their best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.
Bryant, who made 15-of-29 shots from the field, helped put the Lakers halfway to a berth in the second round heading into games at Denver on Friday and Sunday.
“In their arena, they are going to push the ball more,” Bryant said. “They are going to be more comfortable and more comfortable taking their shots. We’re going to have to be ready and prepared for that.”
Andrew Bynum scored 27 points while Ramon Sessions contributed 14 points and Spaniard Pau Gasol added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers on Tuesday.
Ty Lawson scored 25 points to lead the Nuggets, who outrebounded the Lakers 52-48, causing Lakers coach Mike Brown great concern.
“We have to do a better job of keeping them off the offensive glass,” Brown said. “We have got to take care of the ball, think tempo.
“We had a solid game. The key to the series is how well we get back in transition. We’re not going to stop Ty Lawson but you would hope to make him work for his shots.”
Los Angeles led 55-48 at half-time behind 21 points from Bryant and 16 from Bynum.
The Lakers scored 14 points in a row to seize their largest lead at 71-52 during a five-minute Denver scoring drought.
But the Nuggets responded with a 14-2 run to pull within 73-66 and stayed within 81-74 entering the fourth quarter.
“They got a lot of transition baskets,” Bryant said. “They got a lot of baskets off our dumb mistakes.”
Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari hit a 3-pointer to pull Denver within 98-94 with 1:55 remaining and JaVale McGee’s tip-in for the Nuggets lifted them within 100-96 with 26 seconds remaining, only to have the Lakers hit four free throws in the closing seconds to seal the triumph.
Meanwhile, New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, who smashed his left hand into a window protecting a fire extinguisher after a loss, will miss the next game after minor surgery to repair a small muscle.
The NBA club said on Tuesday that Stoudemire will not play when the Miami Heat visit New York on Thursday. The Heat defeated New York 104-94 on Monday at Miami, prompting Stoudemire to punch the glass in frustration.
Stoudemire suffered a large cut on the side of his hand and had surgery to repair a small muscle, ensuring he will not play when the Heat try to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
The star forward is listed as doubtful for game four on Sunday but the Knicks said they will reevaluate Stoudemire’s status before then.
“We all have done things out of anger that we regret. That makes us human,” Stoudemire said in a Twitter posting early Tuesday. “Bad timing on my part. Sorry guys. This to(o) shall pass.”
Stoudemire averaged 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game this season. The Knicks went 14-5 without Stoudemire, including 9-4 late in the season with Carmelo Anthony moved to power forward while a bulging back disc sidelined Stoudemire.
But Iman Shumpert played a key role for the Knicks during that spurt and Shumpert has already been lost for the remainder of the playoffs after suffering a knee injury in New York’s game one loss last Saturday.