Carmelo Anthony played through injury and illness as Chauncey Billups stepped up to lead Denver Nuggets into a 120-101 beating of the Los Angeles Lakers.
|Billups earns a bit of towel time [AFP]
Billups scored 24 points and a determined Denver made sure they didn't let another late lead get away against Kobe Bryant's Lakers, levelling their Western Conference NBA playoff at 2-2.
Hot-shot Anthony was slowed by a sore ankle and a stomach bug, finishing with 15 points on 3-of-16 shooting.
He missed his first 10 shots and had just one field goal and seven points midway through the third quarter on Monday.
Anthony twisted his ankle early in the second quarter tangling with Bryant.
But the Nuggets reserves came up big, with JR Smith scoring 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Linas Kleiza added 10 points and Chris Andersen grabbed 14 rebounds as Denver out-rebounded the Lakers 58-40.
Both Kenyon Martin and Nene notched double-doubles. Martin had 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Brazilian Nene had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets.
"It just shows that we have heart and we can play with a man down," the Nuggets' Smith said of Anthony's struggles.
"We've been doing it all year."
Bryant scored a game-high 34 points, while Pau Gasol scored 21 points with 10 rebounds for Los Angeles.
But the Lakers' run of eight straight playoff victories in Denver was halted.
Los Angeles host game five of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday.