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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nuggets end Lakers' long winning streak

LOS ANGELES (AP) The day started out badly for the Los Angeles Lakers when the microphone didn't work for the national anthem singer — and he sang it anyway with the heckling crowd drowning him out.

News photo
Dirty work: Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, below, and Lakers guard Derek Fisher scramble for a loose ball on Sunday in Los Angeles. Denver won 95-90. AP PHOTO

Things got progressively worse after the two-time defending NBA champions realized the Denver Nuggets were not going to go away quietly.

Danilo Gallinari scored 22 points, Kenyon Martin scored six of his 18 in the final 3:24, and the stubborn Nuggets hung on for a 95-90 victory Sunday that extended their winning streak to six games.

"We just didn't get the game under control, especially in the fourth quarter," Lakers center Pau Gasol said. "We just gave them too many chances to the point where they believed they could take the game. And they took it. They're a very versatile team and they've got a lot of guys that contribute in different ways."

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points for the Lakers, whose loss ended a nine-game winning streak and dropped them 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference. The NBA-leading Spurs beat Phoenix 114-97 earlier Sunday to end a six-game slide.

It was only the second defeat in 19 games for the Lakers since the All-Star break. The other came against Miami on March 10.

"I told the team we beat ourselves, but it's not the whole story," coach Phil Jackson said. "I think Denver is very aggressive, and they created the 20 turnovers that really hurt us in the course of the ballgame. It turned out to be a very physical game. Denver was able to come out in the second half and shoot the ball pretty well."

Los Angeles has six games left to try and overtake the Spurs and earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. The Lakers face the Spurs for the fourth and final time this season on April 12 in their next-to-last regular-season game.

The Lakers went into the All-Star break 8 1/2 games behind the Spurs following a three-game skid capped by an embarrassing 104-99 road loss to league-worst Cleveland. They need five more wins to reach 60 for the 12th time and third under Jackson. All seven of Jackson's teams to reach 60 victories won the NBA title, including five times with Chicago.

Gasol had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and reserve Lamar Odom chipped in with 17 points and seven boards. Andrew Bynum had 16 rebounds and reserve forward Matt Barnes returned from a one-game suspension with five points in 18 minutes.

In a game where neither team led by more than eight points, the Lakers took their final lead on a 19-footer by Derek Fisher that put them ahead 83-82 with 4:40 remaining. But Raymond Felton responded with a 3-pointer that triggered an 8-0 run, capped by Martin's put-back dunk. Martin added another one with 11.3 seconds left after Nene missed his second free throw.

"We don't have a closer that's going to make a big-time shot, but we have guys that are ready for the challenge," said coach George Karl, whose Nuggets are 15-4 since sending leading scorer Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks in a trade on Feb. 21. "As a team and a coaching staff, we have to work together to try to get good shots in that situation."

Spurs 114, Suns 97

In San Antonio, George Hill scored 29 points as the NBA-leading Spurs beat Phoenix to stop a six-game losing streak — the longest of Tim Duncan's 14-year career with the team.

Knicks 123, Cavaliers 107

In New York, Amare Stoudemire scored 28 points to lead the Knicks to their first postseason berth since 2004.

Celtics 101, Pistons 90

In Boston, Kevin Garnett scored 23 points and Paul Pierce added 22 as the Celtics topped Detroit in Shaquille O'Neal's brief return to the lineup.

Heat 108, Nets 94

In Newark, N.J., LeBron James had 31 points and 11 rebounds as Miami won its third straight.

Raptors 102, Magic 98

In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Jerryd Bayless had 21 to help the Raptors end a six-game losing streak.

Wizards 97, Bobcats 91

In Charlotte, N.C., Andray Blatche had 25 points and 17 rebounds as Washington won its second straight game on the road after a dismal a 1-35 start away from home threatened to match an NBA record for futility.

Kings 106, Jazz 97

In Sacramento, Tyreke Evans had 24 points and 10 assists to help the Kings end a two-game losing streak.

Rockets 114, Hawks 109

In Houston, Kevin Martin scored 35 points and Luis Scola added 12 of his 15 in the second half to lead the Rockets past Atlanta for their seventh straight home win.

Hornets 108, Pacers 96

In New Orleans, Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and Chris Paul shook off a minor knee injury with 18 points and eight assists to lead the Hornets. Trail Blazers 104, Mavericks 96

In Portland, Oregon, Gerald Wallace scored 19 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 for the Trail Blazers.

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