LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers and Nuggets won't know for another few months who's got the other's number. For now, though, give Denver the edge.
Chauncey Billups scored a career-high 39 points, including nine 3-pointers, and the Nuggets won 126-113 Friday night, ending the Lakers' eight-game home winning streak and improving to 2-0 against them.
Billups was 12 of 20 from the floor, including 9 of 13 from 3-point range, and made 6 of 8 free throws to go with eight assists for the Nuggets, who played without Carmelo Anthony for the seventh straight game because of a sprained left ankle.
"You've always got to be confident. There's a lot of people that can say it, but until you can do it, you've got to get that confidence from the right place," Billups said. "They're the world champs. But we feel that we can compete with them."
Billups scored 21 points in the third quarter alone, the most against the Lakers in one period since Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers had 23 in a game in February 1966. Billups' nine 3-pointers were the second-most ever against the Lakers.
"He was shooting considerably beyond the line," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I'm just glad that didn't happen in a playoff game."
Kobe Bryant scored 33 points on his sprained left ankle, but the first-place Lakers proved no match for the Western Conference's No. 2 team, the one they beat in last year's conference finals en route to their 15th NBA championship.
"I could still be effective and play," Bryant said tersely. "Obviously, I'm not as explosive as I was but I can still command double teams, things like that."
Asked if the Nuggets think they're the better team, Bryant replied, "I'm sure they do. They played extremely well the first two games this season and they have every right to feel that way."
Denver coach George Karl had wondered before the game how the Nuggets would make up Anthony's 29.7 scoring average. Billups took all the concern away as he beat up the Lakers in the third, when Los Angeles had its nine-point lead erased on his long-range daggers.
"They really put a rush on us in that third quarter," Jackson said. "We never really recovered."
Billups hit four consecutive 3s to give Denver an 87-85 lead, its first since late in the second quarter.
"Without Melo out there, you've got to make up for a lot of different things," he said. "Our style of play is a tough style to play against if you've got guys that are making shots. If we're not making shots, they'd probably beat us pretty handily. But when we are, we're a tough group to defend."
Ty Lawson took a cue from Billups, making his own 3-pointer and the Nuggets regained a 94-89 lead heading into the fourth.
J.R. Smith and Lawson took over in the final 12 minutes, combining for the Nuggets' first 12 points and extending their lead to 106-96. Billups became the distributor in the end, finding Arron Afflalo in the left corner for a 3-pointer -- one of a season-high 15 by the Nuggets -- that made it 121-110.
Smith finished with 27 points and Lawson 13 as six Nuggets reached double figures.
"It was huge, especially to win on their court," Smith said. "We've struggled a lot out here, so getting one here without Melo is big. And when we get him back, hopefully we can keep it rolling."
The win allowed the Nuggets to get to .500 on the road at 12-12.
They shot 57 percent from the floor, 68 percent from long-range and 71 percent at the line. The Lakers hit 45 percent from the floor.
Karl and Billups were among Denver's late arrivals on a rainy night, showing up 60 minutes before tipoff. "A wrong turn and too much traffic," Karl said. ... Karl said Anthony could return in a few days. ... Denver leads the season series 2-0, having won 105-79 at home in November. ... Dodgers manager Joe Torre and actor Denzel Washington attended the game. Jamie McCourt, the estranged wife of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, sat courtside after greeting Torre.
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