Mozgov, Nuggets power past Lakers

Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov sat on the floor, holding his chin as his teammates pushed the ball up the court late in the second half.
The elbow he took to his jaw briefly stunned him, but it couldn't stop him or the Nuggets as they beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-99 on Wednesday night.
"It's a basketball game, it's a real-man's game," Mozgov said. "You just have to keep playing if you can."
Mozgov did keep playing, and he turned in his best game in a Denver uniform. The 7-foot-1 Russian tied a career high with 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He also scored 23 against Detroit on Jan. 1, 2011, when he was with the Knicks.
Forward Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and guard Ty Lawson scored 19 for the Nuggets, who won two straight for the first time this season.
"Early in the year we let a couple games get away from us, but we're a better team than most people believe," guard Nate Robinson said.
Center Pau Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers (4-6), and forward Jordan Hill also had a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
The duo was no match for the Nuggets' big men, who welcomed back one player after losing another.
The Nuggets (3-4) lost center JaVale McGee to a stress fracture Friday but were bolstered by the return of forward Wilson Chandler from a hamstring injury that cost him all of preseason and the first six games of the regular season. Chandler scored 12 points in 21 minutes.
Mozgov, getting more playing time with the loss of McGee, sparked the Nuggets after Los Angeles got within four entering the fourth. He hit a jumper in the lane, drew an offensive foul on center Chris Kaman and hit another jumper that beat the shot clock and gave Denver an 89-79 lead.
"Timo's a player. For a big guy he can shoot free throws, he can shoot, rebound and block shots. He's a helluva player," Robinson said. "I love the way he plays, he doesn't complain, he just plays hard. I love that."
The Lakers, playing without guard Steve Nash for the second straight game, got within six again, but Chandler hit two 3-pointers around a Faried tip-in to make it 101-87 with 5:30 left.
Mozgov's defense in the last two minutes helped seal it. Twice he blocked Gasol's layup attempts to bring the crowd to its feet. He finished with four blocks to tie a career high.
"We know he has it in him, but I'm glad that he was able to put it together like that," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "He just played a great all-around game."
Denver took advantage of the schedule that had the Lakers playing a home game last night and flying in early Wednesday morning. The Nuggets pushed the pace throughout the game and got mostly layups and short jumpers. They outscored the Lakers 60-32 in the paint.
"It wasn't good, it wasn't good. We held them to 40 percent shooting and they probably shot all layups on the 40 percent," Lakes coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There were too many times they got to the basket without either big showing up."
The Lakers looked like the fresher team at the start, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before Denver finally got rolling. Once the Nuggets did, they raced past Los Angeles. The home team went on a 23-6 run to grab a nine-point lead late in the first quarter.
They never surrendered the lead.
"Our energy gave out," Hill said. "We came out with more energy at the beginning, then our energy started slacking and they just kept rolling with it."
The advantage grew to 13 on Faried's hook shot and a free throw early in the second. The Lakers got within four late in the half before trailing 60-54 at intermission but had trouble keeping up with the quicker Nuggets.
"That was a recurring theme throughout the game, their athleticism," D'Antoni said. "Their foot speed was more than us most of the time."
NOTES: Lakers G Steve Nash missed his second consecutive game with a nerve root injury. He will be sidelined at least one more week. ... Nuggets C JaVale McGee is expected to miss several weeks with a stress fracture in his left tibia. McGee was injured in Friday's loss to the Suns in Phoenix. ... Denver has 12 players averaging at least 15 minutes a game, but with F Wilson Chandler returning, some players' minutes will start to diminish. "I'd like to get the rotation down to nine or 10 guys," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "I've been trying to seek out and search for combinations that work. We still have injuries. Definitely something I've wanted to do but something I've needed to do." ... The Lakers' bench entered Wednesday leading the NBA in scoring at 52 points per game. Los Angeles' subs scored just 28 points against the Nuggets.

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