LOS ANGELES — Although the Los Angeles Lakers have inspired plenty of strong emotions during their title-laden history, the Denver Nuggets felt something that’s been rare in recent decades.
Ty Lawson had 21 points and 10 assists, Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points and hit a big 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left, and the Nuggets beat the struggling Lakers 112-105 Sunday night for their fifth win in seven games.
JaVale McGee scored 17 points for the Nuggets, who showed no signs of weariness after a home win over Utah one night earlier. Despite two last-minute 3-pointers by Kobe Bryant, Denver calmly maintained a lead throughout the fourth quarter of its second win in 12 days over the star-studded Lakers, who aren’t exactly putting fear or fury into their opponents.
“They’re struggling," Denver coach George Karl said. “It’s a great win for us, but I’m not going to get overinflated."
Staples Center was mostly silent while Los Angeles dropped to 15-18 with another mediocre performance featuring 18 turnovers, intermittent defense and little structured offense down the stretch. Bryant scored 29 points and Dwight Howard had 14 points and a career high-tying 26 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost three straight and four of five.
“(We’re) a good team, and it’s getting better," Karl said. “I just don’t want to get too crazy with it."
Even when the Lakers did things right, they still went wrong. Bryant’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds left cut Denver’s lead to 105-102, and Howard emphatically blocked Andre Miller’s layup attempt on the Nuggets’ next possession — but the ball went straight to Gallinari, who immediately drained a 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds left.
Again, the Nuggets were almost apologetic for the pivotal play in just their fifth road win over the Lakers in 26 meetings.
“It was a lucky bounce," Gallinari said. “Dwight blocked the shot, and the ball came back to me, and Metta World Peace was right there, ready to block my shot. You don’t have a lot of time to think, especially in that situation, so I had to release it very quick."
The Nuggets hung on to their lead with big late baskets from Miller and Lawson, whose layup put Denver ahead by eight points with 1:18 to play. After Gallinari’s big shot, Bryant hit another 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds left, but Miller hit two free throws before Bryant missed another desperate 3-point try.
Also on Sunday:
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kemba Walker had 20 points and seven assists, Ben Gordon scored 18 points and Charlotte beat Detroit in overtime for just their second win in 21 games.
MIAMI — LeBron James scored 24 points, Miami had an edge in rebounding and closed with a 21-0 run over the final 7:07 to beat Washington.
PHOENIX — Zach Randolph scored 21 points and Rudy Gay added 20 to lead Memphis.
TORONTO — Russell Westbrook scored 23 points, Kevin Durant had 22 and Oklahoma City won for the 17th time in its past 20 games.