"We absorbed a lot of points from Iverson," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He got our whole team in foul trouble."
Iverson scored 49 points through the first three quarters but was held to a just a layup in the fourth. The Lakers clamped down on the 6-foot guard, forcing the ball out of his hands. The strategy worked. Iverson took only four shots in the last 12 minutes.
"When somebody gets 49 points in the first three quarters obviously its going to draw attention to the other team," said Iverson, whose career high of 60 came against Orlando on Feb. 12, 2005. "When somebody's got 49 points they want to make sure I get the ball out of my hands, and that's what they did. My responsibly is to give it up and my teammates had to make plays."
They couldn't. Anthony was 4-for-10 from the field in the fourth and the rest of the team made 3 of 9.
While Iverson got cold, Bryant heated up. Bryant picked up his fourth foul 38 seconds into the third quarter and sat the rest of the period, but he played the entire fourth, scoring 12 points. With the game tied at 102, he scored six straight points for the Lakers to give them a 108-104 lead with 35.3 seconds left.
Kenyon Martin hit one of two free throws with 23.2 seconds left, but Fisher hit two foul shots to make it 110-105 with 15.8 seconds left. Anthony missed a 3-pointer and Fisher hit a free throw to seal the win.
Bryant also helped stop Iverson in the fourth quarter.
"I'm not one of these players that believes if a guy gets hot there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "I just don't believe that."
For three quarters, the Lakers couldn't stop Iverson. He was 17-for-23 from the field and scored 16 of Denver's 30 points in the third period to help the Nuggets tie the game at 88.
"I just got in a rhythm. I kept attacking," Iverson said. "Everything that I saw open, I attacked, and I was able to knock down shots. When I got the ball, it seemed like every move that I made, it would throw the defender off."
But Iverson, who played the entire game, had trouble finding any room to shoot in the fourth.
"It was fun seeing him play that well, but shooting the ball and being hit and fouled so often, it wears on you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I think he got fatigued a little bit."
Before he tired, Iverson was electric. He single-handedly kept the Nuggets in the game and overcame the Lakers' 3-point shooting in the first 36 minutes. Los Angeles hit nine 3s entering the fourth, five from Radmanovic.
Iverson scored nine straight points late in the third to give Denver a 79-76 lead and push his point total to 49. The Lakers rallied to take an 80-79 lead, but Iverson drove the lane, and when two Lakers collapsed on him, he kicked the ball to Eduardo Najera, who hit a 3-pointer.
- Iverson's 33 first-half points tied his career high in a first half, which he set at Milwaukee on Dec. 18, 2004. His career-high for a half was 36 at Orlando on Nov. 10, 1999.
- Iverson's 51 points are the most by a Nuggets player since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had 51 at Utah on Dec. 7, 1995.
- The Nuggets' franchise record for points in a game is held by David Thompson, who had 73 against Detroit on April 9, 1978.
- Bryant left the game with a hurt left shoulder after he took a hard foul with 2.5 seconds left in the first period. "We went to the locker room, took a look at it and realized it wasn't something that was going to be too serious," Bryant said.