Lakers move closer
Nuggets fall into a 3-2 series hole
LOS ANGELES - 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's 103-94 victory last night.
Game 6 is tomorrow night 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 when the Lakers outscored the Nuggets 27-18 to take command at a packed
Bryant, Odom, and Gasol teamed for all but 7 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 7 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 what it had been earlier 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."
A Brown 2-point jumper gave the Lakers an 11-point lead with 8:11 remaining and they maintained control until the final buzzer.
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 Sunday. The Nuggets have never won a best-of-seven series after losing Game 1.
The good kind of history is seemingly on the Lakers' side. They haven't lost a best-of-seven series that was tied 2-2 after winning Game 5 since the 1969 finals against Boston.
With Anthony leading the way, the Nuggets led for most of the second period before Bryant set up Sasha Vujacic for a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make it 56-56.
Denver continued to control the pace in the third quarter, Anthony scoring with a 2-point jumper and then adding a free throw to give the Nuggets their biggest lead at 71-64.
Denver twice led by 7 points in the third 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.
The first half featured 13 ties, and on the Lakers' final play, Bryant held the ball at midcourt as the clock ticked down before driving and kicking to Vujacic, who hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 56-all. The Lakers were 0 for 7 from long range until then.