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Friday, December 07, 2007

Iverson was magical, but Lakers were victorious

Everybody in the stadium felt like they were nothing more than kindling for three quarters. The popular Allen Iverson torched the Lakers again and again and again Wednesday night.

Iverson darted around the Pepsi Center floor with boundless energy, carrying the Denver Nuggets along with him for what looked like a joyride to a certain victory.

Then the fourth quarter started and Iverson went cold, the Lakers rediscovered their match and pulled away from the Nuggets down the stretch for a 111-107 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,155.

Iverson scored 49 of his 51points in the first three quarters, but went 1-for-4 shooting in the fourth. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth, but was a mere afterthought as Iverson went off in the first three quarters.

In fact, Kobe Bryant sat out almost all of the third quarter because of foul trouble. He also missed much of the second quarter after suffering a bruised left shoulder.

"It's a big confidence boost for us, for everybody to make shots, to make plays with Kobe out," Lamar Odom said after Los Angeles Lakers completed a sweep of their trip to Minnesota and Denver. "It's another boost for him to have confidence in us."

Odom had 17 points, one of four Lakers to score 10 or more points.

And Vladimir Radmanovic added a season high 21 points and Derek Fisher had 20.

However, there was more to the Lakers' game than scoring. Trevor Ariza came off the bench in the second half to help badger Iverson. Andrew Bynum, who did not play Tuesday because of a stomach illness, dominated the paint defensively.

"With Kobe in foul trouble and Iverson with 49 points in three quarter, you'd be looking at a 20-point loss," Odom said. "I guess you could say we took their best punch."

When the encounter got tight in the final minutes, Bryant and Fisher responded as expected.

Bryant scored on a pair of drives to the basket and a midrange jumper down the stretch, helping the Lakers take a 108-104 lead with less than a minute left. Fisher made 3 of 4 free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.

"We had to absorb a lot of points from Allen Iverson," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I had to sit Kobe out almost the whole third quarter and we survived the quarter and came out of it tied (at 88-all). It was a good victory for us."

It did not come without a few anxious moments, however.

Bryant tumbled to the floor in the closing seconds of the first quarter, stumbling over the left foot of Denver's Eduardo Najera and crash-landing on his left shoulder after attempting to dribble through traffic near midcourt.

Kobe Bryant lay face-first on the floor for several moments before heading to the bench. He suffered nothing worse than a bruised left shoulder and returned to the game midway through the second quarter to help lead the Lakers to a 62-58 lead by halftime.

He left again early in the third quarter, but not because of an injury. The reason was just as hurtful for the Lakers, however. He picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the second half, trudging to the bench as Sasha Vujacic replaced him.

Neither Bryant's injury nor his foul trouble was the story of the first half, however.

Bryant scored 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting in the first half to lead the Lakers, but Iverson's scoring cast a long shadow over other events.

Bryant could only watch as Iverson shredded the rest of the Lakers.

Iverson shed defenders with a dizzying array of stop-and-go moves that had the Lakers grasping at air as he raced past them. He had 15 points by the end of the first quarter, 33 by halftime and 49 by the end of three quarters.

The Lakers countered with superb shooting from behind the 3-point arc, with Radmanovic making 5 of 6 en route to 17 points by halftime. He finished 6 for 9 on 3s and was 7 for 12 overall.

"I'm not a one-on-one type of player," Radmanovic admitted. "I'm more of a guy who if he gets open shots will take them. I got a lot of wide open shots and they paid for it."

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