May 23 - PEPSI CENTER - DENVER. The Lakers regained home-court advantage with an encouraging 103-97 victory over Denver in the Nuggets first defeat at home since March 9.
Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, including a three pointer with 1:08 left that put the Lakers ahead for good 96-95 and 5 free-throws to freeze the game in the final seconds. As he did in game 1, Trevor Ariza, who had 16 points, once again stole a key inbound-pass, this time by Kenyon Martin, then was fouled by Carmelo Anthony and made both free throws to make it 99-95 with 36 seconds left. It was Anthony's 6th foul and he left having scored 21 points but just 3 of them in the second half. He shot 4-for-13 from the field while Chauncey Billups ended with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Pau Gasol had a good game and finished with 20 points and 11 boards.
The Lakers survived a horrible night from the free throw line from where they missed 14 of 45 attempts. They led only once in the first half at 12-11 four minutes into the game, and after missing 8 of 17 free throws they went to the halftime rest down by 4 points, 52-48. They tied it at 52, seconds into the third but the Nuggets quickly took a 60-53 lead. The Lakers stayed close the rest of the period until J.R. Smith buzzer-beater made it 79-71 to end the quarter. But Smith also received a technical foul for jawing at Vujacic who was trying to defend him on the play.
Before the fourth quarter started, Kobe made the technical free throw, and it was the beginning of the end for the Nuggets. The Lakers had their second lead of the night with 7:31 left when Ariza made one of his 3 three-pointers. Chauncey Billups generated an ovation by making a three and drawing a foul on Kobe Bryant the same play but sadly for the Nuggets their players combined for a pitiful 5-for-27 (.185) from beyond the three-point line. Billups made his free-throw and Denver went up 89-86 before Gasol scored the next 4 points going strong to the post where Nene and Kenyon Martin were playing in foul trouble. Then Kobe took charge as he usually does at the end.