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News » Nuggets say win over Lakers prove they're for real

Nuggets say win over Lakers prove they're for real

Nuggets say win over Lakers prove they're for real
DENVER (AP) - The Los Angeles Lakers' legs were weary and their eyes droopy, yet the Denver Nuggets feel their signature win over the team with the NBA's best record served notice that they're for real, too.

"This was a big game for us," Chauncey Billups declared after Denver's stunning 90-79 rout of the Lakers, who barely avoided the worst shooting night since their move from Minneapolis to L.A. in 1960.

"Everybody's talking about the Lakers and Spurs and we're not even being mentioned," said Chris Andersen, who is having a fantastic comeback season in Denver after his career was derailed by drugs.

"With this win tonight, we're going to be big contenders."

Billups said the Nuggets (39-20) needed this type of signature win to show everybody - including themselves - what they're really capable of.

"My former teams were always locked in against teams like that, putting out these kinds of efforts," said Billups, who led the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference championship series and one title.

For the rest of the season, Billups said, they can point to this game and know what they can do and not have to rely on that tiresome notion of potential.

Now they have proof.

"You run this tape and you look at how we played defensively. It's always something you can go back to and say, 'Let's get to this,"' Billups said.

The Lakers brought the NBA's best record (48-10) into town when they checked into their hotel at 4 a.m. Friday. They sleepwalked through much of their loss to the energized Nuggets.

Their 29.8 shooting percentage bested their old futility mark by four-tenths of a point, and they would have set a new low-water mark had Jordan Farmar not scored on a breakaway layup with five seconds left.

It was the only shot all night that went uncontested by the Nuggets, who defended the paint and the perimeter with equal aplomb.

"That was a garbage game, no doubt about it," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I wish we could repay the fans some money for that game."


The Nuggets thought their fans got quite the bargain.

Despite all the good karma swirling around Denver since Billups rejoined the Nuggets in the Allen Iverson trade in November, Denver lacked a signature win over an elite team.

Plus, the Lakers had beaten them nine straight times, including a four-game sweep in the playoffs last year that proved once and for all that Iverson wasn't really "The Answer" in Denver.

While Detroit has struggled ever since acquiring Iverson, the Nuggets are 38-17 with Billups and own the Western Conference's third-best record behind L.A. and San Antonio.

Unlike the Lakers, the Nuggets treated Friday night's game like it was now or never.

Andersen tied his career high with seven blocks.

"We've been given a gift by the basketball gods to lose Marcus (Camby) and then be given a similar type player," coach George Karl said. "He's an excitable dude."

J.R. Smith scored 22 points while helping limit Kobe Bryant to 10-for-31 shooting.

"J.R. was the man," said Karl, who has spent previous seasons flustered over his enigmatic forward's immaturity and inconsistency.

Karl said he'd never seen his Nuggets teams play better defense. His challenge now, Karl said, is to "figure out how we can bottle it and put it on the court every night (because) with our offensive skills, I think we can be great."

And maybe they'll finally get out of the first round of the playoffs, something that's never happened in the five seasons since Anthony joined the team after leading Syracuse to the national title as a freshman in 2003.

"I can't wait to watch the film to see what we did right," Karl said. "It must have been a lot of good stuff because they've been just slicing people up with their passing and their ball movement with whoever, (Pau) Gasol on the post-up, Kobe on the cuts, (Derek) Fisher on the perimeter.

"I think they were fatigued. Going to bed at 4 o'clock's not easy on any NBA player," Karl said. "(But) I think it's a great win for (owner) Stan Kroenke and the organization. We've all been talking about that, when we got beat in L.A., Stan and I said, 'I'm tired of this. I'm tired of losing to them.'

"And fortunately, I think the players felt the same way."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 1, 2009


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