Los Angeles (40-35) at Denver (41-34)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 10:30 pm EDT Thu Apr 6, 2006
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Kobe Bryant looks to break a 43-year-old franchise record for 40-point games when the surging Los Angeles Lakers visit the struggling Denver Nuggets.

Bryant had 43 points in Los Angeles’ 104-88 win over Houston on Sunday, giving him 23 games with at least 40 this season.

That tied Elgin Baylor’s record set in 1962-63, when Baylor averaged 34.0 points per game. Bryant is averaging 34.8 per contest, seven points more than last season and four more than his previous career-high of 30.0 in 2002-03.

“I never in my wildest dreams dreamed of being in such great company like Elgin and the other greats that have been here,” Bryant said. “I’ve learned from a lot of greats, too, so I can’t take credit for it.”

The Lakers have won six of their last seven games, with the only loss coming to West leader San Antonio. They sit in seventh place in the conference, three games behind sixth-place Memphis.

Bryant has scored 43 points in four of those seven games to lift him into the tie with Baylor.

“That is crazy to think about, especially when you know every night that the other team’s defense is focused on him,” the Lakers’ Luke Walton said.

Bryant has averaged 25.6 points in 18 games in Denver, but has broken 40 points only once, scoring 51 in February 2003. He was accused of sexual assault in Colorado in June 2003, but the charges were eventually dropped. Bryant has played four games in Denver since then, averaging 25.8 points on 43.3 percent shooting.

Denver has lost four of its last five games as it attempts to win a division title for the first time since 1987-88. The Nuggets still lead the Jazz by 5 1/2 games in the Northwest Division, with eight games remaining for Utah and seven for Denver, but the frustration is beginning to show for the Nuggets.

Carmelo Anthony was ejected late in Denver’s 111-109 loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night for punching the ball into the stands following a hard foul.

“The rule is now that anything thrown into the crowd is an automatic ejection, so I’m pretty sure he did warrant the ejection from the interpretation of the rules,” Denver coach George Karl said.

“Carmelo got frustrated. I wish he wouldn’t have, but over an 82-game season, things like that do happen. If we just kept our cool and kept the frustration out of the game, we’d probably tie the game up and it would probably have a different rhythm to it.”

Denver started the game 12-for-12 from the floor and shot 81.6 percent in the first half, but blew a 22-point lead to lose for the third straight time on the road.

Anthony finished with 24 points, ending his 11-game streak of scoring at least 25.

The Lakers have won 15 of the past 18 meetings with the Nuggets, including both matchups this season.

STANDINGS (through April 4): Lakers - 3rd place, 10 GB, Pacific Division. Nuggets - 1st place, Northwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Lakers - F Brian Cook, F Lamar Odom, C Kwame Brown, G Smush Parker, G Bryant. Nuggets - F Anthony, F Francisco Elson, C Marcus Camby, G Greg Buckner, G Andre Miller.

TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 34.8 ppg; Odom, 9.1 rpg and 5.4 apg. Nuggets - Anthony, 26.7 ppg; Camby, 11.8 rpg; Miller, 8.4 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Lakers, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 6; Lakers, 112-92. At Los Angeles, Bryant scored 37 points and Chris Mihm had 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Lakers beat the Nuggets for the second time in four days.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 18-21 on the road; Nuggets - 24-13 at home.

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