LOS ANGELES, May 28 – Kobe Bryant had 22 points and eight assists and Lamar Odom scored 19 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 103-94 on Wednesday in game five of their semi-final series.Pau Gasol also had 14 points for Los Angeles who took a three games to two lead in the best-of-seven series to determine the Western Conference representative in the NBA finals.
"We stretched the defence out a lot more," Bryant said. "We wanted to change it up tonight by making me more of a decoy to try and open up opportunities for my teammates."
Game six is Friday at Denver as the Nuggets will try to stave off elimination.
It has been a back and forth series and Wednesday’s game was no different as the teams were tied at the end of the first quarter (25-25) and at the half (56-56) and 76-76 heading into the fourth before the Lakers finally clamped down.
Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 31 points and Kenyon Martin had 12 points and five rebounds for Denver who looked for awhile like they would pull away in the third.
But the turning point came in the fourth as the Lakers fought back to outscore Denver 27-18. They finished with five players in double figures.
Los Angeles broke the game open with a 21-3 run late in the third quarter that carried over into the fourth.
At one point they made 11 consecutive defensive stops on the Nuggets.
"They didn’t have any fast breaks in the fourth quarter," said Odom, who also had 14 rebounds. "We also kept them off the free throw line."
Odom played Wednesday with a sore back and has been wearing an extra pad under his jersey to protect the area. He rebounded from a poor performance in game four to go seven-of-15 from the field.
"The last few day I couldn’t answer my phone. I couldn’t watch TV," Odom said. "I had to suck it up and take it like a man. I had to put my focus cap on."
Nuggets coach George Karl complained about the refs Wednesday, pointing to the 30 fouls they received compared to just 22 for the Lakers.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had similar complaints about the officials after game four and was fined 25,000 dollars for his comments.
"I am not going to get fined," Karl said. "Every player in our locker room is frustrated. (It is like) everyone goes into the post-game press conference to lobby for the league to help with the refereeing."
He was especially ticked that Gasol received just one foul.
Karl then admitted, "we didn’t play well enough to win on the road."
That was partly due to the play of Bryant who finished with a game-high eight assists.
"When they beat us in game four a lot of people had doubts about us," Bryant said.
"They tried to trap me and double team me all over the place. We just put the ball in my hands and when they made a defensive commitment we would just make plays from there."