Published February 25, 2013
DENVER – Wilson Chandler scored 23 points in place of an injured Danilo Gallinari, and Ty Lawson added 22 in the Denver Nuggets' 119-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
Gallinari, the Nuggets' leading scorer, sat out with a bruised left thigh. He wasn't needed as the Nuggets won their ninth straight game at home, snapped the Lakers' four-game winning streak and took the season series from their long-time nemesis 3-1.
The Lakers, who were shut out on the offensive glass in the first half, wanted to slow down the Nuggets but Denver outscored Los Angeles 33-3 in fast-break points.
Gallinari, who got hurt Friday night at Washington and was limited the next night at Charlotte, was an unexpected late scratch. Averaging 16.9 points, he had scored at least 19 in each of Denver's first three games against the Lakers.
Chandler started in his place and Corey Brewer got extended minutes, too, finishing with 16 points.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points, and Dwight Howard added 15 points and 14 boards but missed 11 of his last 12 free throws.
The Lakers trimmed an 18-point, second-half deficit to 106-99 on Bryant's fadeaway jumper with five minutes left but couldn't get any closer.
Nuggets coach George Karl said before the game that he was expecting Gallinari to start. He also said that Bryant was playing as well as ever for the resurgent Lakers, who are fighting for a playoff spot after a slow start, a rash of injuries and a coaching change.
"He told me when they beat us last year in the playoffs that he was getting old. He was lying, man. He looks healthier and younger now than he did last year," Karl said. "And the shots he's making are just a coach's nightmare."
Bryant finally found his shooting touch Monday night but started out cold and was hounded by JaVale McGee. He missed 6 of 7 shots in the first quarter, with one of McGee's blocks leading to a fast-break bucket by Brewer as the Nuggets started to separate themselves barely 10 minutes into the game.
Bryant hit his first four shots in the second quarter, but again McGee's big block led to a fast-break basket, this one by Lawson as the Nuggets took a 67-54 lead at the half.
A flustered Bryant picked up a technical foul on his way to the locker room.
The Nuggets stretched their lead to 18 points in the third quarter before the Lakers cut it to 95-83 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Karl also praised Bryant's teammates, saying the Lakers, no matter their record, still represent a measuring stick for his young lineup.
"The Lakers are the greatest NBA basketball team in our lifetimes and they're great players, so I think it's pretty easy to get motivated for this game," Karl said. "I had butterflies real early. I wish the game had started quicker."
Notes: The Nuggets are 24-3 at the Pepsi Center, including a 126-114 win over the Lakers on Dec. 26. ... The Lakers had won 11 of 14. ... There were three technical fouls called in the first 4½ minutes. ... Lawson extended his career-best streak of 20-point games to seven.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton