Anthony’s jumper with 3.8 seconds left in overtime gave the Denver Nuggets a 110-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. It was the eighth time this season he’s made a big shot in the waning seconds.
“I live for stuff like that, getting the ball in the last seconds,” Anthony said. “Whether I make the shot or miss it, I would rather put that pressure on me.”
Bryant lives for these moments, too. But after two timeouts, Bryant, who scored 42, was hounded by Ruben Patterson and Greg Buckner. So Luke Walton inbounded to Kwame Brown. He tossed it back to Walton, who was long on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I told the guys that the team is going to double- and triple-team Kobe at the end. So he’s not going to get the ball,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Somebody else is going to have to step and make shots.”
Bryant, whose four-point play sent the game into overtime at 99, walked off the Pepsi Center court dejected, shrugging his shoulders in frustration at not getting the ball and the chance to match or upstage Anthony.
“That’s a good, astute observation. I wanted the shot,” Bryant said. “I always want the ball in my hands. They had me covered. I wish I could have gotten a better screen on the play. But Luke had a good look in the corner.”
“I had a good look,” he said. “The ball felt real good on the release. It just caught the back of the rim and went over.”
Bryant broke Elgin Baylor’s franchise record with his 24th 40-point game of the season.
‘Melo has hardened his reputation this season as the game’s top clutch performer. He is now 10-for-15 in shots to win or tie in the final 10 seconds for his career, and his eight career game-winning baskets are just three shy of what Michael Jordan managed in 15 NBA seasons.
“It just seems like he has a cockiness and confidence to make shots,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “In my career, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a guy make as many shots when it counts.”
Anthony’s 33 points led the Nuggets, who closed in on their first Northwest Division title since 1987-88. Any combination of Denver wins or Utah losses totaling two will give the Nuggets the crown.
“I wanted it in regulation, but they were denying me too much. It happens,” Anthony said. “At the end of regulation, if it gets like that down the stretch, I want to put the game on my back in overtime, and I did a pretty good job of that in overtime. I think that if I’m open I can make that shot. Devean George was going to the left, so I went a little right and I just took the shot.”
The Nuggets, who didn’t trail in regulation, had the ball with 18.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But after a timeout they failed to get the ball to Bryant and couldn’t get off a shot and the Lakers got the ball with 0.6 seconds on the clock. Bryant spun around the circle to get the inbounds pass from Walton, but his shot banged off the rim at the buzzer.
Bryant’s dunk 42 seconds into overtime gave the Lakers their first lead, 101-99, and Walton’s basket with 57 seconds left gave the Lakers a 108-107 lead.
Free agent-to-be Francisco Elson scored a career-high 21 points, including 13 in the first quarter as the Nuggets jumped to a 39-22 lead. Elson has been showcasing his skills after forward Nene blew out a knee in the opener and Kenyon Martin has been bothered by a nagging knee injury following surgery last summer. But this was his biggest stage yet, a nationally televised late-night game against Bryant and the Lakers.
“His game was probably the reason we won it,” Karl said.
Bryant sank a 3-pointer while being fouled by Buckner with 1:14 left and his bonus shot tied it at 99. Altogether, he made 13 of 14 free throws.
“I just wish that Andre or Carmelo would get half the calls that Kobe Bryant gets. I mean, it’s very frustrating when sometimes on your home court you don’t get a good whistle,” Karl said.
As has been the case every time he’s visited Denver following his sexual assault case in Eagle, Colo., that was dropped 20 months ago, Bryant got an earful from the Pepsi Center crowd every time he touched the ball. And they really let him have it on three airballs.
But there were plenty of Bryant backers who came to life as he brought the Lakers back.
For all his productivity, however, Bryant was just 13-of-32 from the floor.
“I think we made him miss a lot of shots,” Karl said.
And at the end they didn’t even allow him to take one.
Martin, whose minutes have been limited because of knee tendinitis, sat out for the first time in six games. … Elson’s previous career best was 16 points.