Kobe Bryant’s 3-pointer wasn’t nearly as dramatic as LeBron James’ but equally effective.
Bryant’s big shot over J.R. Smith gave Los Angeles a one-point lead with just over a minute left Saturday night in Denver and sparked the Lakers to a 103-97 victory over the downtrodden Nuggets for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Bryant, who scored 41 points, went 5 of 6 on free throws to ice it after his 3-pointer gave Los Angeles a 96-95 lead.
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points but just three after halftime for Denver, which lost at home for the first time since March 9. He was 4 for 13 in his worst performance of the postseason.
The Nuggets, who led most of the game but were done in by poor decisions and a failure to keep their composure, fell behind by four points when Trevor Ariza stole Kenyon Martin’s inbounds pass, was fouled by Anthony and sank two foul shots for a 99-95 lead with 36 seconds left.
Chauncey Billups’ two free throws made it 99-97, but Bryant sank two more free throws with 22 seconds remaining, Billups missed a 3-pointer and Bryant capped his big night with two more foul shots with 12 seconds left.
Penguins take 3-0 lead
Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist, and the Pittsburgh Penguins pushed Carolina to the brink of elimination by routing the Hurricanes 6-2 in Raleigh, N.C.
Sidney Crosby added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who lead the series 3-0. They scored twice in the final minute of the first period, then added two more goals in 40 seconds of the third to seal their fourth straight victory.
Pittsburgh can sweep the best-of-7 series Tuesday night and make a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Sabbatini, Mallinger lead
Rory Sabbatini and John Mallinger are set to play another round together as leaders at the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas.
The second-round co-leaders shot 5-under-par 65s to share the lead again after three rounds. They are at 13-under 197 and two strokes ahead of three other players.
Sabbatini was even through four holes before closing his front nine with four birdies. He has won four times, the last two years ago at the Colonial.
Mallinger enjoyed a bogey-free round. He is in his 77th PGA Tour event and looking for his first victory.
•Allen leads first senior event: Michael Allen, winless in 271 PGA Tour events, shot a 3-under 67 in for a one-shot lead over Jeff Sluman and Tom Kite through three rounds of the Senior PGA Championship in Beachwood, Ohio.
Allen, who turned 50 in January, is making his senior debut and finds himself atop the leaderboard in the Champions Tour’s first major championship of the year. He stands at 3-under 207 through 54 holes.
Sluman had the lead to himself before bogeying the 16th and 18th holes, completing a 70 that tied him with Kite, who shot a 69.
•Miyazato and Kang lead Corning: On an amazing day of scoring, 19-year-old Japanese rookie Mika Miyazato shot a 10-under-par 62 to tie Soo-Yun Kang of South Korea at 17-under 199 in the third round of the LPGA Corning Classic in Corning, N.Y. They were one shot ahead of 20-year-old Yani Tseng of South Korea, who also shot 10 under.
Eunjung Yi of South Korea started shortly after 9 a.m. and quickly gave a strong inkling of what was about to unfold. She made three eagles in her first five holes to become just the fifth player in LPGA history to accomplish the feat on a round.
Tseng was even better, making two eagles and four birdies on the front nine for a 28. That was just one stroke better than playing partner Natalie Gulbis (66), but it broke the tournament record of 29 set two years ago by Wendy Ward of Edwall, Wash. Ward shot a 7-under 65 Saturday and is tied for 29th with a 206 through three rounds.
Bliss catches break
Mike Bliss raced to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory since 2004, catching a break to claim the rain-shortened event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Bliss, who started from the back of the field, took the lead because he was in the right position when the caution flag came out with 39 laps to go.
The caution put Bliss ahead of series points leader Kyle Busch, who clearly had the car to beat most of the night. It looked as if Busch would get lucky when rain halted the race a few laps later and got him back near Bliss’ bumper. But more showers came, and NASCAR officials called the Carquest Auto Parts 300 with 30 laps to go.
•Button takes Monaco pole: Formula One championship leader Jenson Button earned the pole position for today’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The Brawn GP driver will start first on the grid for the fourth time after setting a fastest lap of 1 minute, 14.902 seconds around the famous street circuit.
Gerrans wins 14th stage
Simon Gerrans of Australia won the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia in Bologna, Italy, with a long breakaway while Denis Menchov of Russia kept the overall leader’s pink jersey.
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