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Nuggets crush Lakers to level Western series at 2-2

THE Denver Nuggets scored a crushing 120-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday to level the Western Conference finals series at 2-2.

Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith each scored 24 points for Denver while the Lakers' Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 34.

After the series' first three hit-outs were decided in the final seconds, the Nuggets dominated Game Four, piling on 43 points in the final quarter to put the result beyond doubt.

"Tonight's game we got more of an explosive performance from our players offensively," Denver coach George Karl told reporters.

"We play our best when we go to the rim and obviously they bought into that message tonight."

Seven Denver players finished with double-digit scoring, including Carmelo Anthony, who managed 15 points despite battling a flu and a sore ankle, as the Nuggets hogged the rebounds 58-40.

"It just shows that we have heart and we can play with a man down," the Nuggets' Smith said of Anthony's struggles. "We've been doing it all year."

Pau Gasol scored 21 points with 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, but Bryant had otherwise little support from the Lakers bench.

"We were tired tonight, it was noticeable tonight because their energy was better," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said.

"But that's not a very good excuse.

"But we've won the road game and brought the home court advantage back to L.A.," Jackson said.

The teams will play Game Five of the best-of-seven series in Los Angeles tomorrow.


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