107 - 122 Final
  for this game

Kobe lights up Nuggets as Lakers roll

Apr 24, 2008 - 7:09 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant was good early and great late.

Bryant set the tone with 20 of his 49 points in the opening quarter to propel the Los Angeles Lakers to a 122-107 victory on Wednesday and 2-0 series lead over the Denver Nuggets.

The MVP-candidate also scored 19 points in the final quarter and dished out a game-high 10 assists for the Lakers, who have won nine straight at Staples Center overall and are 17-2 against the Nuggets here since the arena opened prior to the 1999-2000 season.

Pau Gasol added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Luke Walton collected 18, seven and five assists off the bench for Los Angeles, which was able to protect home-court advantage with the seven-game series now shifting to Denver for two contests, beginning with Saturday's Game Three.

"We took care of business, we did what we had to do," Bryant said. "It's a lot of maturity to come out and play hard the second game and beat them at home. Now,, it's time to go up in a tough environment and see if we can do the same there."

The point total was the second best in Bryant's playoff career, falling one short of the 50 he poured in against the Phoenix Suns on May 4, 2006.

"Tonight, the way he was going, we probably could have 10 people out there on the court and probably wouldn't be able to stop him," Iverson said. "He had a great night, he put his team on his back and was able to carry them."

After getting manhandled by a bigger Lakers' lineup in the opener, the Nuggets countered with a taller unit of their own in this one. Linas Kleiza got the start in place of Anthony Carter while Iverson took over point guard duties.

The strategy worked in part as the Nuggets were able to outrebound their opponents by a 45-41 margin but had trouble finding a way to slow Bryant in the process.

Bryant shot 8-of-10 in the first 12 minutes to get things started and then closed it in the fourth quarter.

"He does it all the time, especially when we need him in big games," Walton said of Bryant. "He was just amazing tonight."

The Nuggets began to unravel down the stretch, picking up two technicals - on J.R Smith and Iverson - midway through the quarter. Bryant would connect on both free throws and followed it up with a 3-pointer from the wing to put the Lakers ahead 108-94 with 5:22 remaining.

"Of course, (the technicals) concern me," Denver coach George Karl said. "It took away our opportunity, maybe."

The sequence led to Bryant scoring 16 of his team's next 17 points, concluding with a three-point play which made it 120-101 late in the fourth.

"I just get into a groove and my teammates start looking for me," Bryant said. "It feels like when you get hot, the ball just finds you. I was able to knock down some shots, make some big plays for us."

Iverson led the way with 31 points, Carmelo Anthony added 23 and Marcus Camby added 17 rebounds for Denver.

Trailing by as many as 11, the Nuggets used a 19-8 run coming out of the half to seize their first lead at 68-67 on a layup by Kleiza. It didn't take long for the Lakers to respond with a 22-11 spurt that gave them a 10-point lead after the three quarters.

The Nuggets finished the game with 14 turnovers to just 12 assists, while the Lakers distributed the ball to the tune of 33 assists.

Still, Denver isn't ready to concede anything just yet.

"We're not going anywhere, our confidence is still high," Anthony said. "They did what they were supposed to do in winning these two home games, and now we have to do what we have to do."