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Nuggets hope they sent message to Lakers and league

Denver's 105-79 win over L.A. on Friday erased some of the Nuggets' pain from last season's loss in the Western Conference finals and showed they want more this season.

November 14, 2009|By Broderick Turner

Reporting from Denver — All of them talked about the pain they endured all summer, about not being able to escape what the Lakers did to them in the playoffs last spring, about their own failures in that postseason.

So when the Denver Nuggets faced the Lakers on Friday night for the first time since the teams played in the Western Conference finals in May, they played with an attitude that the Lakers were unable to match.

The Nuggets, still unable to forget losing in the conference finals in six games, trounced the Lakers, 105-79, at the Pepsi Center.

"It's a big, big win for us, man," said Carmelo Anthony, who scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half. "I know it's early and as I told you guys earlier it's one game on the schedule, but it's hard not to get excited for a game like this, especially with the atmosphere. Everybody was into it so we didn't have [a] choice but to approach it like it was a playoff game."

The Nuggets played with energy and enthusiasm for the entire game. But the same couldn't be said of the Lakers.

Denver outscored the Lakers, 47-23, in the second half. The Lakers' 23 points set a franchise record for fewest scored in a half.

The Nuggets clamped down on defense, holding Kobe Bryant scoreless in the second half. Bryant (19 points) didn't play in the fourth quarter.

"Hopefully it sends a big message," Anthony said. "Not just to the Lakers, but to the whole NBA. We're a legit team and we live by that."

After the Lakers won the playoff series last season, Kenyon Martin proclaimed that Denver was the better team. This time, Martin downplayed Denver's win.

When asked whether it was good for the Nuggets' psyche to beat the NBA champion, the team that beat them in the conference finals, Martin just smiled.

"It don't matter, man. That was last year," Martin said. "That's a whole 'nother year. It's one game. It don't make our season. Not at all. It's still November. It was a great game for us."

The Lakers played Thursday night in Los Angeles and flew to Denver after the game, arriving at the team hotel at about 4 a.m.

The Lakers seemed to lose energy in the third quarter, scoring only eight points, giving up 29.

"They had a long night," Martin said. "They played at home [Thursday] night. Lord knows what time they got in. We came out and we played hard for 48 minutes. That's what it's about."

The Denver defense slowed Bryant in the second half by packing in the defense and doubling teaming him at times.

Arron Afflalo had the primary assignment on Bryant, who missed eight of 10 shots while the former UCLA star defended him. Bryant was five for seven against other Nuggets defenders.

Even rookie point guard Ty Lawson got into the fun. His flying one-handed dunk on Lakers 7-footer DJ Mbenga in the fourth quarter, a play on which the 5-11 Lawson was fouled, brought his teammates to their feet.

The win left the Nuggets at 7-3. Still, Martin was asked whether anybody respects Denver.

"Nope!" Martin said. "Nobody picked us to win nothing. The so-called basketball experts that ain't never dribbled the ball, ran a suicide [drill] or nothing. The so-called experts. Oh well, man.

"You earn that [respect] by winning games. The more you win, the more people start talking about you. That's all we can do each and every day is get better and come out here and compete like we did today and people have no choice but to start respecting us."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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