Carmelo Anthony continued his coming out party as he scored a game-high 34 points on Thursday night in a 106-103 Denver Nuggets victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The win pulled Carmelo and Co. to a series tie at one game apiece in the Western Conference finals.
Anthony has now scored 30-plus points in five straight games and has six total in the playoffs.
“I’ll tell everybody, scoring is something I always can do,” Anthony said. “That’s what got me to where I’m at right now. My main focus is not to go out and score 34 or 39 points every time out.”
One big difference between the two games of the series so far has been free throws. In Game One, the Nuggets shot 23 of 35. Down the stretch in Game Two, the Nuggets hit 18 of their last 19, while hitting 29 of the team’s 37 shots from the stripe. The only miss was by Chauncey Billups with just four seconds left that would’ve iced the game.
Billups again was Anthony’s partner in crime scoring 27 points.
LA led by as many as 14 points in the first half before Denver rattled off a 14-2 run to close the half to trail by only one.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson largely saw the poor closeout to the period as a reason for the loss, citing turnovers and fouls.
The Nuggets controlled the fourth quarter, largely due to Anthony’s defense of Kobe Bryant, who was held to just eight points in the quarter after scoring 18 in Game One’s final period. Bryant finished with 32 points and was perfect from the line, making 10 of 10 free throws.
"I challenge myself to guard the best guys whoever I'm playing against. A guy like Kobe is a tough match for anybody," Anthony said. "I keep telling myself, 'just make it tough on him'."
Anthony, who was just one rebound shy of a double-double, had more help in Game Two than just Billups. Linas Kleiza, who found his way back into the rotation after averaging under 12 minutes per game in the first two series, made shot after shot in the first half, scoring 11 points in the final 12-and-a-half minutes.
“I thought LK was fantastic for us,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Not only did he make some shots, but he got us eight rebounds in the first half.”
Kleiza finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
“I finally got to play. (I have) been out of the rotation, but you just have to stay ready,” Kleiza said.
Kenyon Martin also pitched in with 16 points. He scored 10 straight points for his team in the first quarter.
The series now moves to Pepsi Center for Game Three at 8:30 pm EST on Saturday night in Denver where the Nuggets have won 16 straight games dating back to March.
The road games don’t scare Bryant, though, as he is confident his team will come out strong.
“We’re not the best road team in the NBA for no reason,” Bryant said.
Jackson recognizes what his team will be up against, though.
“They play at a different level on their court,” he said. “We’re going to have...to be prepared for that. They’ve shown they can they are able to come to our court and play us tit for tat.”
With the Game Two win, the Nuggets have now stolen home-court advantage in the series. If they win their home games they will win the series.
The Lakers dropped to 8-1 after scoring 100-plus points in a game this postseason. They are also now 6-1 after leading at halftime.