Nuggets end Laker’s playoff domination

Published 3:06 am Friday, May 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Lakers’ 24-year playoff dominance of the Denver Nuggets dissipated over the final 29 seconds of the fourth quarter.

That’s when Kenyon Martin hit a layup in traffic and Chauncey Billups made 3 of 4 free throws to give Denver a 106-103 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night to even the Western Conference finals.

Los Angeles owned an 11-0 record over the Nuggets dating to 1985, the second-longest postseason winning streak against one team in NBA history.

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Carmelo Anthony had 34 points and 14 rebounds, Billups had 27 points and 16 rebounds and Linas Kleiza added 16 points for the Nuggets. Nene finished with six points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Kobe Bryant had 32 points, including making all 10 of his free throws, Trevor Ariza scored a career playoff-high 20 points and Pau Gasol 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Lakers, who dropped to 7-2 at Staples Center in the playoffs this season.

‘‘To get one on the road is always tough. We came in and got it,’’ Anthony said. ‘‘We’re mentally tough and we showed that in this game coming off the loss that we gave away in Game 1.’’

Game 3 is Saturday in Denver.

‘‘I think this is going to be a long series,’’ Denver coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets recovered from poor free throw shooting in a two-point loss in Game 1 to make 17 consecutive foul shots until Billups missed one with 4 seconds remaining. He hit the second to seal the victory.

Derek Fisher launched a 3-pointer from the right corner that missed as time expired.

Tied at 101, Martin made the layup off Nene’s assist that gave the Nuggets the lead for good.

Bryant dribbled upcourt and got into traffic, with Nene tipping the ball away to earn a jump ball with 18 seconds left. Gasol controlled the tip to Ariza, but the ball squirted away and Fisher fouled Billups. He made both for a 105-101 lead.

Martin fouled Gasol, who made both before Billups got fouled.

The Lakers were shaky on free throws in the fourth, making 9 of 14, while Denver didn’t blink at the line.

Kleiza’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter gave the Nuggets an 85-82 lead, their first since the game’s opening minutes. Billups followed with two free throws and Anthony hit two baskets in a row to extend Denver’s lead to 91-84.

Bryant missed a jumper, but he came up big on the Lakers’ next possession, hitting a 3-pointer with Anthony’s hand in his face. Shannon Brown tossed in a 3 and Lamar Odom made two free throws as part of an 11-2 run that put the Lakers back in front 95-93.

Denver regained the lead before Bryant’s 3-pointer, again with Anthony guarding closely, tied the game at 99 with 1:59 remaining. Billups made two free throws before Bryant’s jumper tied it at 101.

‘‘We kind of changed our fourth-quarter philosophy on Kobe,’’ Karl said. ‘‘We weren’t going to jump him, but we didn’t want to give him the 3-ball.’’

Ariza briefly gave the Lakers some breathing room in a tight third quarter by scoring seven consecutive points for a 71-64 lead. Bryant hit a streaking Ariza with a long pass for a fastbreak layup. He got fouled and made the free throw.

But Denver stepped up its defense and rebounding while outscoring the Lakers 16-10 to trail 81-80 heading into the final 12 minutes. Billups and Anthony had six points each, but the Nuggets missed two free throws in that stretch that could have given them the lead.

The Lakers opened a 14-point lead early in the second quarter. Anthony began a run of 14 consecutive points for the Nuggets to get them to 51-40.

That was the spark Denver needed. From there, they outscored the Lakers 14-2 to end the half trailing 55-54.