| Lakers centre Pau Gasol grabs a rebound [EPA]
The Los Angeles Lakers put on a determined fourth-quarter display to secure a 103-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets, earning the top seeds a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference NBA 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 their home court advantage.
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 Centre.
"We played well," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"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.
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 defence.
"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.
|Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony takes a shot [EPA]
In front of a capacity crowd, the Lakers made a poor start, falling 2-8 behind early on before clawing their back to tie the score at 25-25 after a wildly fluctuating opening quarter.
With Anthony leading the way, the Nuggets led for most of the second period before Bryant set up Sasha Vujacic for a three-pointer just before the half-time buzzer to make it 56-56.
Denver continued to control the pace in the third quarter, Anthony scoring with a two-point jumper and then adding a free throw to give the Nuggets their biggest lead at 71-64.
However the Lakers again rallied, Odom and Bryant each pouring in a three-pointer to level the game at 76-76 going into the final period.
Fired up by a partisan crowd, including Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, the Lakers displayed increased urgency and superb defence as they charged ahead 81-76 after an Odom slam dunk and a free throw.
A Shannon Brown two-point jumper gave Los Angeles an 11-point lead with 8.11 remaining and they maintained control until the final buzzer.
"I thought we played extremely hard tonight but they won the basketball game," Anthony said. "Can't take nothing away from them.
"The games that we've lost, they had an advantage on the inside.
"We just have to have the same intensity on Friday. Go home, take care of business and come back here."