NBA Playoffs: Lakers 103, Nuggets 94
By Beth Harris
LOS ANGELES ó The Lakers owned the fourth quarter against Denver. Now they have a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, Lamar Odom had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 14 points and 10 rebounds in Los Angeles’ 103-94 victory Wednesday night.
Game 6 is Friday in Denver, where the Lakers lost Game 4 by 19 points.
“Got to come ready to play,” Bryant said. “We made a lot of mistakes the last time, the mistakes that took place were execution, and we didn’t do things at the defensive end.
“We’ll come ready to play.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points, hitting 12 of 13 free throws, and Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups added 12 points each for the Nuggets.
The teams were tied after the first, second and third quarters for just the fourth time in NBA playoff history.
So it all came down to the final 12 minutes.
Bryant, Odom and Gasol teamed for all but seven of the Lakers’ points in the fourth. They opened on an 11-0 run for their first lead of the second half and it was capped by Shannon Brown’s jumper that beat the shot clock.
The Nuggets used a 13-6 run to close to 93-89. Linas Kleiza scored seven straight and Anthony had six in the spurt.
But then the Lakers regained control and finished off the victory. They improved to 20-0 in Game 5s at home when a series is tied 2-2.
Bryant said he changed his role from the what it had been in the series.
“It was a big gamble for me coming in, but I wanted to change my approach this game and be more of a decoy,” he said after adding eight assists, several out of double-teams in the fourth quarter. “The past couple games they really were loading to my side and I figured I could be a decoy and try to give chances to my teammates.”
Anthony hit a jumper to get Denver to 96-91 with 1:24 remaining. But the Nuggets went cold from the field over the final 3:38, while the Lakers capitalized at the line. Los Angeles outscored Denver 10-5 in that span, including going 6 of 8 from the line.
Denver returns home needing a victory to send the series back to Los Angeles for a Game 7 on Sunday. The Nuggets have never won a best-of-7 series after losing Game 1.
The good kind of history is seemingly on the Lakers’ side. They haven’t lost a best-of-7 series that was tied 2-2 after winning Game 5 since the 1969 NBA finals against Boston.
Denver twice led by seven points in the third quarter only to see the Lakers tie it at 76 on a 3-pointer by Bryant to end the period. Los Angeles never led, but managed the two ties.
In a first half featuring 13 ties, the teams ended up even after both the first and second quarters. On the Lakers’ final play, Bryant held the ball at midcourt as the clock ticked down before driving and kicking to Sasha Vujacic, who hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 56-all going into halftime. The Lakers were 0 for 7 from long range until then.
NOTES: The Lakers were involved the other three playoff games were tied through the first three quarters, the last was in 1964 against St. Louis. … Denver’s Nene fouled out with 4:02 remaining, with four points and eight rebounds. He has fouled out of three game, … Famous faces in the crowd: Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Ron Artest of the Houston Rockets, Zac Efron and NBA centers past and present Bill Russell and Kevin Love.
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