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Lakers fend off Nuggets to take 3-2 series lead


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers put on a fiery fourth-quarter display to grind out a 103-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, the win earning the top seeds a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference finals series.

All-Star guard Kobe Bryant scored 22 points and reserve forward Lamar Odom contributed 19, along with 14 rebounds, as the Lakers maintained homecourt advantage.

"We played well," Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters.

"They still hurt us on the offensive boards, the first half particularly. But we were aggressive tonight and that was the best part of it. This Lakers group is really connected.

"They're driven and they're motivated to get to where we were at last year to give us a chance to win," Jackson added.

The Lakers lost 4-2 to the Boston Celtics in last year's NBA championship finals.

Carmelo Anthony poured in a game-high 31 points for the Nuggets, who led 73-66 late in the third quarter before the Lakers finally took control at a packed STAPLES Center.

Spanish forward Pau Gasol recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while guard Derek Fisher and forward Trevor Ariza each weighed in with 12 points as Los Angeles outscored their opponents 27-18 in the final period.

"It was a game you just had to work really hard to be able to get a win and fight through everything," Gasol said. "We were able to get back in the game when we were down, get the lead and really tighten up on defense.

"The defensive effort in the second half was quite outstanding and we're going to have to do that if we want to win the next game or the series, period."

The best-of-seven series shifts to Denver for Friday's Game Six.

source : reuters.com

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