It's a good thing Danilo Gallinari was a late scratch for the Denver Nuggets. With a bruised left thigh, he couldn't have kept up with his hustling teammates as they sped past the aged and aching Los Angeles Lakers.
Wilson Chandler scored 23 points in place of Gallinari, and Ty Lawson added 22 in the Nuggets' 119-108 win Monday night in which Denver outscored the Lakers 33-3 on the fast break and 78-50 in the paint.
"The fast-break points, that's a killer," Kobe Bryant said. "That team is like a track team over there."
And the Lakers were like a bunch of shuffle-boarders, trailing on the scoreboard and the hardwood all night long as they trudged through the second game of a difficult back-to-back.
"First, we know that they played last night," Lawson said. "Coming into the altitude, also they're a little slow getting back. So, once they miss a shot, it seemed like a jailbreak. Everybody was trying to run downcourt and get the layup."
Or the arena-shaking slam dunk.
Or the rim-rattling alley-oop jam.
Corey Brewer also got extended minutes with Gallinari out and he scored 16, many in transition. Even seldom-used reserves Anthony Randolph and Jordan Hamilton joined in the fast-break fun.
"Our running game was sensational," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "And we put enough defense in the game."
Gallinari, the Nuggets' leading scorer, wasn't needed as the Nuggets won their ninth straight game at home, snapped the Lakers' three-game winning streak and took the season series from their long-time nemesis 3-1.
Coming off a down-to-the-wire win at Dallas the day before, the Lakers wanted to slow down the Nuggets but just couldn't keep up with their younger, more athletic and, yes, better-rested opponents.
"They just ran out of the starter's blocks and beat us down the floor," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "... We couldn't catch them. We just couldn't catch them. For whatever reason, they just took off. Even on just a missed shot, we couldn't get back quick enough.'"
Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points, and his fadeaway jumper with five minutes left cut Denver's lead to 106-99, but the Lakers got no closer.
The Nuggets scored 22 points off the Lakers' 15 turnovers.
"It's tough to neutralize speed, especially when they're very good at what they do," Bryant said. "Yeah, their speed. Their speed got us. They got out on transition, got easy buckets. Kept the pressure on us. We had to labor for opportunities, think we might have had two fast-break points. Contrast that with 33. It's crazy."
Anything and everything the Lakers tried to do to flip the size-speed disadvantage only backfired on them.
"You have to almost over-exaggerate getting back on defense," Bryant said. "Literally, nobody can go to the offensive boards."
Sure enough, the Lakers had zero rebounds off the offensive glass in the first half and just eight all night.
"I think it was their speed," Bryant said. "Their speed was something that was tough for us to adjust to all night long. They continually pushed the ball down our throats. Shots go up and those guys are already leaking out, to go along with the speed. They got a lot of easy buckets because of it."
Bryant needed 23 shots to score his 29 points and he often found those shots getting swatted away by JaVale McGee, including one that led to a basket by Lawson as the Nuggets took a 67-54 halftime lead. A flustered Bryant picked up a technical foul on his way to the locker room.
Bryant said his NBA-leading 14th technical of the season was a misunderstanding and he's confident the league will rescind it. A one-game suspension is in order when a player reaches 16 technical fouls.
"I'm not concerned," Bryant said.
Andre Iguodala (14 points, 12 assists) and Kenneth Faried (12 points, 10 rebounds) posted double-doubles for Denver.
Dwight Howard added 15 points and 14 boards for L.A. but missed 11 of his last 12 free throws after sinking his first two.
"That was the highlight," D'Antoni cracked. "It happens. I'm not going to dwell on it much, just because nobody steps up there and wants to miss it. We just need to clean up the other stuff.
"I was more disappointed in the turnovers in the first quarter and not having that little extra burst to try to get back. We couldn't even get three guys back. It was like 5-on-2. They had all five guys down and we had one back or two back. To me, we just weren't quite ready for their speed."
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. ... Denver's 33 fast-break points are a season-high, the Lakers' 3 fast-break points a season-low.
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