Lakers off to best 11-game start since 2001-02 season

LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson prefers when none of his starters has to play more than 34 minutes. Not only did he get his wish in the Lakers' one-sided win over Denver, but none of them spent 30 minutes on the court -- and they still kept Carmelo Anthony in check.

Kobe Bryant scored 11 of his 29 points in the third quarter before sitting out the fourth, Andrew Bynum had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Los Angeles coasted to a 104-90 victory on Friday night.

"It's about taking care of business. That is how we push it," said Bryant, who is averaging just under 34 minutes. "It's a push against the clock. I think it shows the business attitude that we have, as well as depth. I wanted to do a little more service, especially in these sleeper games."

The defending Western Conference champion Lakers (10-1) are off to their best start through 11 games since the 2001-02 championship season, when they won 16 of their first 17. All of their victories have been decided by seven or more points -- which was their winning margin against four teams.

"They have a lot of offensive weapons, and they've turned themselves into a pretty good defensive team," Denver coach George Karl said. "They're much improved defensively from last year, and they haven't had a close game."

Anthony, the runner-up to Bryant for the league scoring title in 2006-07, had 10 points on 5-for-19 shooting and is averaging just 16.3 points over his last six games. He has scored 30 or more points 57 times since the start of the '06-07 season, the third-highest total during that stretch behind LeBron James (77) and Bryant (75).

"I think it's very difficult to be a star when defenses are designed and manipulated to take you out and stop you from being successful," Karl said. "Right now we're not getting a lot of opportunities for him. He's taking a lot of tough shots and getting frustrated over the shot selection. I think he's got to be patient and work with us, and we'll figure out how to help him gain more success."

Anthony didn't get to the free throw line all night. He sat out the fourth quarter and kept his double-digit scoring streak alive at 218 consecutive games when he hit a 15-foot jumper with 11:15 left in the third.

The last time the six-year veteran was in single digits was Nov. 28, 2005, when he played just 1 1/2 minutes against New Jersey before leaving with a sprained ankle and had two points.

"We focused on not giving him open opportunities, getting a body on him when he gets the basketball, turning him to the baseline a lot of times and trying to keep him from the middle so he couldn't penetrate," Jackson said. "Vlade [Radmanovic] did a good job on him and I thought guys focused on him and knew where he was."

Nene and J.R. Smith had 18 points apiece for Denver. Chauncey Billups made his first three shots, but was 3-for-9 the rest of the way and finished with 15 points and nine assists before going to the bench with 10:39 remaining.

Billups, a three-time All-Star, is averaging 18.3 points and 6.2 assists in nine games since the Nuggets reacquired him from Detroit in a trade that sent Allen Iverson to the Pistons.

"This team taught us a lesson tonight, and they beat us in every aspect," Billups said. "When you come out against a team like this and don't give 100 percent, it shows."

The Lakers never trailed in the opener of a five-game homestand, making 14 of 21 shots in the first quarter and bolting to a 35-20 lead.

Anthony had a miserable first half -- shooting 4-for-13 and committing three turnovers in a 2:47 span. The Lakers used a 20-6 run to increase a 13-point lead to 59-32 with 4:26 left in the second quarter.

The Nuggets had one brief competitive stretch at the start of the third quarter, slicing a 20-point halftime deficit to 71-60 with a 13-4 run capped by Dahntay Jones' layup with 6:53 left in the period.

But the Lakers responded with a 14-2 surge capped by Bryant's 17-foot running jumper with 2:18 left in the quarter. Denver got no closer than 14 points on a 3-pointer by Smith with 4:40 to play.

"Kobe's energy was great tonight. They got their interior game going at the end of the first half, but at that time we were 27 points ahead at the time they got their momentum," Jackson said. "They're a big momentum team, but we were able to keep him to that and not go too long without a score -- although we started that third quarter rather dismally."

Bryant, who won back-to-back scoring titles immediately preceding last season's MVP campaign, has reached the 30-point mark only once this season. That was on Nov. 1 at Denver, when he had 33 to help beat the Nuggets 104-97 in their final game with Iverson.

The Nuggets have lost nine straight meetings with the Lakers, who swept them in the first round of the playoffs, and have lost 16 of 18 regular-season games at Staples Center since the building opened nine years ago.

Game notes
Bryant shot a 30-foot airball with 1:41 left in the third quarter and the Lakers leading 85-63. ... Billups was MVP of the Finals in 2004 against the Lakers, averaging 21 points while Detroit won the series in five games. ... The Nuggets are 7-2 with Billups in the lineup, and the Pistons are the only team that has beaten the Lakers. ... No Denver player has scored 30 or more points through the team's first 13 games. It's the team's longest such streak at the start of a season since 2002-03, when they went 27 games before Juwan Howard had 30 against the Clippers in Los Angeles.