Nuggets 113, Lakers 86

Friday, March 16th 2007, 8:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ A hefty fine and a seven-game losing streak. Things couldn't be worse for Phil Jackson.

Jackson got fined $50,000 for accusing the league of having a vendetta against Kobe Bryant and then lost a seventh straight game for the first time in his 16-year coaching career Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets 113-86.

Yet, Bryant saw a glimmer of hope for the free-falling Lakers: Lamar Odom and Luke Walton returned from injuries that have wreaked havoc on the Lakers' lineup, and they played a pretty good first half, for what that's worth.

``What we're trying to do right now is just get better, that's what it's about. Until you get better, you just build that chemistry,'' Bryant said. ``We're not a team that's built on the most talent in the world. It's on chemistry.

``You saw flashes of that in the first half with that unit that was together all last season. We haven't been together this year, but some of that rhythm was there. It's definitely coming. I was surprised how well we clicked that first half considering we haven't played together all year.''

In other games Thursday night, Milwaukee beat San Antonio 101-90 in Larry Krystkowiak's head coaching debut, and Miami beat New Jersey 93-86.

Linas Kleiza scored a career-high 29 points and Carmelo Anthony had 26 as the Nuggets handed the Lakers their 13th loss in 16 games.

Kleiza's previous career high was 24 points against Sacramento on Sunday in another nationally televised game.

``It's not about national TV, it's just that my game is coming along,'' Kleiza said. ``We are coming along as a team. We are trusting each other more, and the coaches are trusting us, too. I think that is the biggest difference for us. I have been working on it a lot, and I have a long way to go still.''

Kleiza shrugged off his career night.

``It was just one of those games where the shots were going down. Melo and Iverson were doing a great job sharing the ball,'' he said.

Kleiza was doing a great job putting it through the hoop, hitting 10 of 13 shots, including 5-for-6 from behind the arc.

Iverson couldn't have picked Kleiza out of a crowd when he came over from Philadelphia three months ago, but said the second-year forward was the catalyst for the Nuggets' biggest win since the trade.

``I didn't know who he was when I got here, but a nationally televised game, I think a lot of people around the world know who he is now,'' Iverson said.

Iverson added 14 points and 13 assists and Marcus Camby had 11 points and 14 boards for the Nuggets, who moved into a tie with the Lakers for the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

Bryant's 25 points led the free-falling Lakers, who were fined $50,000 along with Jackson earlier in the day by the NBA. The coach had said the league was conducting a ``witch hunt'' against Bryant.

``I thought you only get fined for criticizing the officiating,'' Jackson said before tip-off. ``They're the sacred cows. But I find out somebody else has a sacred cow somewhere else.''

Bryant recently received two one-game suspensions this season for striking players in the face after taking a shot. The league retroactively assessed Bryant with a flagrant foul for an elbow to Philadelphia's Kyle Korver last week, a play that didn't even draw a foul.

Bryant declined to discuss his coach's fine.

``Anything I say to that will be inflammatory,'' he said. ``I don't want to add fuel to that fire.''

With Brian Cook (ankle) not making the trip, both Walton and Odom returned. Odom hadn't played since tearing the labrum in his left shoulder March 2, and Walton had been sidelined since spraining his right ankle Jan. 26.

They started along with Kwame Brown, who missed 27 games with a sprained ankle before returning March 2. He replaced 19-year-old Andrew Bynum at center. Walton had 13 points and Odom scored nine.

Bryant said the Lakers have plenty of time to get it together.

``I'm not frightened or depressed,'' he said. ``We get these guys back, we get rhythm again, I feel like we'll be OK. Players who were forced to play 38-40 minutes now have a more supportive role, roles they flourish in, because they were asked to do so much in a system they know nothing about. It was difficult for anyone to handle, get these guys back in the system. We'll be OK.''

Bucks 101, Spurs 90

Michael Redd scored 29 points to help host Milwaukee snap San Antonio's 13-game winning streak and win Krystkowiak's debut. Milwaukee shot 53.4 percent from the field and got a big lift from rookie Lynn Greer, who scored all of his career-high 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Brent Barry had 20 points to lead San Antonio.

Heat 93, Nets 86

A foul-plagued Shaquille O'Neal scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to help visiting Miami win its eighth straight.

Udonis Haslem added 21 points and 12 rebounds, Jason Williams had 13 points and 12 assists and the Heat won for the 16th time in 20 games. Miami is 9-2 since Dwyane Wade went down with a shoulder injury, pulling within a half-game of first-place Washington in the Southeast Division.

Jason Kidd had nine points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for New Jersey, and Richard Jefferson added 20 points.