|Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol box out Chris Andersen of the Nuggets [GALLO/GETTY]
Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 1-0 lead in NBA's Western Conference finals over the Denver Nuggets with an inspired fourth-quarter performance.
Bryant hit 18 of his 40 points in the final quarter, including six straight free throws in the final 30 seconds, as the Lakers recovered from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit.
Pau Gasol rose to the challenge, scoring 13 points and making 14 rebounds while making game-tying free throws in the final minute before Bryant sealed victory from the free-throw line.
"We just had to push through it," Bryant said.
"We didn't come with the kind of energy we wanted (and) guys were a little fatigued.
"This was a good win. It was a gut check for us."
"Like I told the guys in a timeout, this is a different series. We felt kind of down on
ourselves with a slow start. ... I told them to forget about that, this is a different series.''
Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points on 14-for-20 shooting for the Nuggets, who were unable to hold an 89-82 advantage with seven minutes remaining.
"We didn't do enough to win," said Nuggets coach George Karl.
"I don't know what you want to analyse, we played a very good game the only thing we did poorly at the end was turn it over.
"There are no moral victories in playoff basketball. The next 48 hours will be difficult."
Denver led 99-97 with 1:38 left then failed to score on two possessions.
Chauncey Billups gave Denver one final hope with a three-pointer that pulled his team within 103-102 with six seconds left.
Bryant, however, immediately added two free throws and then grabbed the all-important rebound off Nuggets' guard J.R. Smith's missed free throw to end the game.