DENVER (AP)— This was not exactly the new look Carmelo Anthony was talking about.
Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and the Los Angeles Lakers nearly became the first team in three years to hold Anthony to single digits in a 104-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.
Anthony, who declared last month, “You will see a different me,” this season thanks to a focus on defense, finally found his rhythm in the fourth quarter, but that’s when Bryant scored 14 points to fend off the fatigued Nuggets.
“We were stuck in the mud, and it’s my responsibility to get it going,” Bryant said.
It was the Nuggets who looked like they were stuck in quicksand by game’s end. They had gotten in late following an overtime win over the Clippers at the Staples Center—a game the well-rested Lakers watched from their Denver hotel rooms Friday night.
“I guess they were a little bit tired,” Pau Gasol said.
And ‘Melo was more than a little bit rusty.
Coming off a two-game suspension, Anthony scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. He made two 3-pointers with under a minute left to extend his NBA-best streak of consecutive games in double figures to 208.
“I was a little rusty out there,” Anthony said. “Good to get that one game under my belt.”
Anthony, who ditched his trademark cornrows for a close-cropped cut, was held to a single bucket until sinking consecutive baskets to help the Nuggets slice it to 93-91 with 4 minutes left. He fired up an airball from beyond the arc on Denver’s next possession, and Bryant responded with a basket at the other end to make it 95-91.
Denver (1-2) never got closer as the Lakers, who trailed most of the game before taking control in the fourth quarter, improved to 3-0.
“I’m not going to worry about the offensive game for myself. I can do that with my eyes closed,” Anthony said. “I’m not really worrying about that; that will come around.”
Anthony Carter scored 20 points to lead the Nuggets, who also got 18 points from Kenyon Martin before he departed in the second half with a pulled left hamstring.
Anthony hasn’t been held below 10 points since Nov. 28, 2005, when he played just 1 1/2 minutes against New Jersey before leaving with a sprained ankle after scoring just two points.
His franchise-record streak makes him the most consistent offensive player in the NBA since 2005, and it’s 90 games longer than second-place LeBron James’ 118-game streak.
The Nuggets have been focusing on defense since camp started, and they limited the Lakers to 38 percent shooting, but now it’s the offense, of all things, that the Nuggets are struggling with. That, and offensive boards. They had just three of them against Los Angeles, only one by a starter.
“There are some things we need to work on. I think we forgot that we’re a scoring basketball team, a running basketball team,” Anthony said. “We spent so much time on defense in training camp, which is not a bad thing. It’s going to take time on the offensive end to get clicking.”
Anthony, who sat out the first two games of the season as punishment for his April 14 arrest on a drunken driving charge, was scoreless in the first half. He did, however, have a nifty assist on Carter’s 3-pointer that ignited a 14-7 run that gave Denver a 52-46 halftime lead.
Anthony’s first shot to fall was a 17-foot jumper with 9:39 left in the third quarter.
“There was one point in time in the third quarter I was like, ‘OK, nothing’s going to go in for me today.’ I tried to get my teammates involved, trying to get guys open shots, play defense because I knew on the offensive end it wasn’t clicking,” Anthony said.
“I haven’t had that feeling for a long time. I tell you what, I won’t have it again. I’ll tell you that.”
Martin is day to day with the first hamstring injury of his career. … The Lakers have beaten Denver eight straight times.