Originally Posted by picc84
Any word in JR Smith?
Nuggets Waste Golden Opportunity By Marc Stein | ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- J.R. Smith says the knee that he tweaked in Tuesday night's frantic Game 1 finish is merely bruised and won't stop him from playing in Thursday night's Game 2.
That's the silver lining for the team that just squandered a golden opportunity.
Apart from Smith's insistence that he's fine -- and maybe the fact that Kobe Bryant is now just two technical fouls away from a one-game suspension -- there is lots for the Denver Nuggets to lament after they started the Western Conference finals with a 105-103 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
"The next 48 hours," Nuggets coach George Karl conceded, "are going to be difficult."
That's because the visitors wasted Carmelo Anthony's 39 points and clanked 12 free throws, which pretty much nullified the fact that the Nuggets were sent to the line 11 more times than the hosts. The game was physical and close -- pretty much everything Denver could have wished for after nearly a week off since dismissing Dallas in Round 2 -- but the ending couldn't have been much more painful.
This one will sting even if Smith has indeed survived the hard crash he took in the scramble after he intentionally missed a free throw in the game's final sequence, since Denver came close to breaking through against the mighty Lakers after losing the teams' past 10 playoff meetings.
The Nuggets aren't the first team to let Bryant rumble for 18 points in the fourth quarter, but they also had to live with the sight of Trevor Ariza picking off Anthony Carter's looping inbounds pass to Chauncey Billups in the final minute and L.A. running the clock down to 10 seconds before Bryant was fouled with the Lakers only up two.
In spite of Anthony busting out against a team that held him in check in four regular-season meetings, Denver is behind in a series for the first time this postseason. Bryant scored 12 of his 40 points in the final 5:57 to erase the Nuggets' 93-87 lead and leave them tantalizingly close to clinching the Hollywood split of their dreams on the first try.
"We missed out on a great opportunity to steal this game," Billups said. "We played probably good enough.
"... I watched this team play against the Lakers last year [when Denver got swept in the first round]. I don't think they had one game this competitive. We pretty much controlled the game, most of the game, [but] that's why it's disappointing that we sit here and we lose this game."