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 Bryant has 33, Lakers win 116-102 over Nuggets

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PostSubject: Bryant has 33, Lakers win 116-102 over Nuggets   Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:58 pm

LOS ANGELES(AP) Pau Gasol was impressed with
Andrew Bynum's comeback. A decrease in his own minutes to accommodate
his fellow 7-footer wasn't too shabby, either.Kobe Bryant scored
33 points, Gasol added 27 points and 19 rebounds and the Los Angeles
Lakers welcomed back Bynum in a 116-102 win over the Denver Nuggets on
Thursday night.The win was the fifth straight for the Lakers
(63-16) and tied them with the idle Cleveland Cavaliers (63-15) for the
league lead.Bynum, playing in his first game since tearing the
medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Jan. 31, had 16 points
and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.Wearing a black brace on the
knee, Bynum was greeted with cheers when his name was announced in the
starting lineup. Another loud eruption came when the Lakers' announcer
asked fans to welcome back the center."It was nice. It was
almost like he never went out. It was a great performance for a
comeback game after two months and something out. It just shows that
he's been working hard,'' Gasol said.And the perks for him?"We
have two 7-footers out there that can rebound. I was able to take
advantage that he was a little off on his rhythm and I was able to go
after the ball because he attracted two defenders. It was positive for
me because it opened up my lane and allowed me to go after rebounds.''Gasol's 19 boards were nearly half of the Lakers' total (51).And he did that with less minutes."It
balances out Pau's minutes a lot, just even five minutes off his minute
total is really important. That helps us a lot,'' Lakers' coach Phil
Jackson said.So how did Bynum feel?He rated himself a B, B-plus and said it felt good to get a game under his belt."It
feels great to be back and be playing man, seriously. My teammates have
been waiting. They fed me the ball a little bit and got me really
comfortable out there.''Carmelo Anthony had 23 points to lead
the Nuggets, who lost for the first time in nine games and failed to
secure the number two seed in the Western Conference. J.R. Smith had 19
points, while Chauncey Billups and Nene each added 17.The
Nuggets got within six with 8:12 remaining before Bryant turned it on.
He scored six straight, including a bank shot from the left side of the
key that didn't look like it had a chance, to give the Lakers a 107-93
lead."We hung in the game. I think they feel there was an energy
to that team tonight that they haven't had in the last couple of
weeks,'' Denver coach George Karl said."We probably didn't play well enough to win.''One
of the story lines coming into the game focused on the Nuggets and
their improved defense, but Los Angeles easily topped 100 points with
three starters in double digits.And the Lakers put additional pressure on the Nuggets' guards, causing fits for their rhythm on offense."They're
a great defensive team and they got us frustrated a little bit. They
just kept executing on offense like they always do,'' Smith said.Bynum,
who started in place of Lamar Odom, didn't shy away from contact and
bumped up against Denver's big men throughout. It took him a while to
get comfortable in his first start, though, and he was 0-for-2 in the
first quarter and had two turnovers.He scored nine points in the third quarter, showing flashes of his old self, and wound up 7-for-11 from the field.It
was Bryant and Gasol who put the Lakers ahead in the third, when the
two launched Los Angeles on a 16-5 run with less than six minutes
remaining in the quarter.Shannon Brown hit a wide-open 3-pointer
to start it and Gasol and Bryant combined to add 11 points in the
spurt. Bryant's 3 with 1:39 remaining gave the Lakers a 13-point lead.While
most of the focus was on Bynum's return, it was Gasol who got the
Lakers going. He was one rebound shy of a double-double by the end of
the first quarter and had six points as part of an 8-0 run that gave
Los Angeles a 32-21 lead.Jackson turned the game over to his
bench in the second quarter, but subbed his starters back in at the
5:50 mark in an attempt to slow the Nuggets.They provided a
spark for a few minutes before Denver went on a 12-4 run behind a pair
of 3s from Smith, one a buzzer-beater that tied the game at 56 going
into halftime.Notes: Kenyon Martin missed his fourth consecutive
game, but should return to the lineup on Monday when the Nuggets host
Sacramento. ... Jackson wants to see how Bynum and Gasol work together
before the playoffs. "They played really well together before. A big
part is getting them both on the court together,'' Jackson said. ...
The Lakers honored the memory of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and the
two others who died in an early morning crash with a moment of silence
before the game. ... Bryant (23,756) needs two points to pass Charles
Barkley for 17th place on the NBA's career scoring list.

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