By Arnie StapletonAP Sports WriterDENVER - For all the pundits who figure the Lakers and Spurs are the only teams to worry about in the West, the Denver Nuggets served notice Friday night that they deserve to be talked about, too.
J.R. Smith scored 22 points and hounded Kobe Bryant all night, and the Nuggets beat cold-shooting Los Angeles 90-79 to end to end a nine-game losing streak against the Lakers.
The Nuggets got solid performances from reserves Smith and Chris Andersen, who tied a career high with seven blocks, pulled down 12 rebounds and chipped in 11 points, and their defense was, to a man, absolutely outstanding.
The Lakers, who brought the NBA's best record (48-10) into town when they checked into their hotel at 4 a.m., had their second-worst shooting night since the franchise moved to Southern California nearly a half century ago from Minneapolis - 29.8 percent.
"That was a garbage game, no doubt about it," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I wish we could repay the fans some money for that game. Neither team played very well, but they played better than us."
The Lakers, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped, were on pace for their worst shooting night when Jordan Farmar's breakaway layup with 5.1 seconds left allowed them to beat the old low-water mark of 29.4 percent set against Utah in 2004.
It was the only shot the Nuggets didn't contest all night.
"It's been a long time," Denver coach George Karl said. "They've beaten us. They've hurt us. They've dominated us."
At long last, the tables finally turned.
"(Friday night), we (played) as active and as intelligent of a defensive game as I think we've played all year long or maybe ever since I've been here," Karl said. "We challenged a lot of shots; it was a tremendously active defensive game."
Bryant scored 29 points, but he needed 31 shots to do it, sinking 10 of them, and he was hounded by Smith in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets held the Lakers to 16 points and Bryant went 2-for-9.
"I thought in the fourth quarter, that's by far the best defensive game I've ever seen him play," Karl said of Smith.
Karl said his challenge now is to get this type of defensive dominance out of his team every night.
Mix this "with our offensive skills, we can be great," Karl said. "This is a playoff type of game for us. I'm not sure they played it that way, but it's going to be a good night and a good sunrise."
Bryant said this was the perfect storm of a fatigued team facing a fired-up team on little rest with little room for error.
"They played really aggressively defensively," Bryant said. "On top of that, we just didn't have any legs. On top of them doing a good job and us having no legs, we just had a horrible shooting effort."
Lamar Odom was 5-for-17, and the bench was a combined 3-for-19.
"We got in at 4 in the morning, so we didn't want to run up and down, we wanted to slow down," Odom said.
"All the five guys that were on the court, no matter if it was starters or the bench, I saw everybody locked in," Chauncey Billups said. "I saw everybody helping one another, everybody talking, people down in the defensive position the whole time.
"It was a beautiful defensive game."
Carmelo Anthony had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Denver. In years past, he said if he was held to a dozen points, "there was no way we were going to win."