Rush hit a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left, lifting the Lakers to a controversial 112-111 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Kobe Bryant, playing his second game in Denver since being charged with sexually assaulting a woman at a Colorado resort last summer, had 35 points and 10 assists as the Lakers won their fifth straight game.
Carmelo Anthony had 35 points for Denver, whose losing streak was stretched to a season-high four games.
The Lakers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, battled back behind Bryant and Gary Payton. Los Angeles cut the deficit to two points on three occasions, the last time when Luke Walton stole the ball and hit a layup to make it 111-109 with 53 seconds remaining.
Denver’s Andre Miller appeared to brush the rim with a shot that barely beat the shot clock and Anthony rebounded, but the whistle blew for a shot-clock violation. The officials huddled and ruled it was an inadvertent whistle, resulting in a jump ball with 27 seconds left.
Los Angeles’ Shaquille O’Neal, jumping against Nene, tipped the ball to Payton. Walton drove the lane and kicked the ball out to Rush, who followed with the clincher. Miller missed a desperation shot at the end.
“I almost gave up on Kareem because he made a turnover at half-court,” Jackson said. “I told him to go back out there and settle down. He’s an effective shooter for us, and I have confidence in his game.
“That was an interesting finish. I have to conclude that even I was confused on that last whistle. We were lucky to get the jump ball and win the ballgame from there.”
Rush said he thought he might be open because the Lakers’ big guns would be double-teamed.
“The play was designed for Kobe to create something,” Rush said, “and he got doubled. I’m running around, trying to find an open spot. Luke found me and I took the shot. I’ve knocked down that shot a thousand times in my life, but I haven’t been in that position since college.”
Referring to his rebound, Anthony said, “I had the ball in my hands before the whistle sounded. They robbed us of one tonight.”
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik agreed.
“It’s a shame the game ended like it did,” he said. “They told me it was an inadvertent whistle and they felt bad. But they can walk away and they’re on to the next city. There is no `L’ or `W’ next to their names.”
Bryant, booed unmercifully on Jan. 7 here, received a somewhat warmer greeting Wednesday night. He received a mixture of boos and cheers during pregame introductions, and while he was frequently booed when he touched the ball, he also was cheered after scoring.
“The crowd tonight was better than it was the first time here,” Bryant said. “I try not to pay attention to that stuff too much, just go out and play. Tonight I think I was received just like any other player.”
O’Neal had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who were outshot 56 percent to 52 percent. Miller added 21 points for Denver.
Anthony and Bryant each scored 11 points in the first quarter as the Nuggets took a 28-25 lead. Denver erased a 10-6 deficit with a 10-3 run, which started with Anthony’s driving layup and ended with his 3-pointer.
The Nuggets shot 77 percent (13 for 17) in the second quarter to forge a 62-50 halftime lead.
An 8-0 run early in the quarter which included back-to-back 3-pointers by Jon Barry put Denver ahead 36-28. The Lakers had their own 8-0 surge, including three straight layups by Bryant, to cut the deficit to 40-39 with 6:33 left.
But Denver outscored Los Angeles 22-11 over the remainder of the period. Voshon Lenard had eight points during the flurry, and his long jumper off the glass gave Denver its biggest lead of the half, 60-47.
Denver boosted its lead to 15 points early in the third quarter and led 88-77 entering the final period.
Anthony’s fast-break slam dunk put Denver up 100-87 with 7:13 left. But the Lakers scored the next 11 points, including four by Payton. Denver still held a 109-102 lead with 2:29 left, but Payton hit a turnaround jumper and Bryant a3-pointer prior to Walton’s basket.
Bryant was named Western Conference player of the week after averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in four games. … The Lakers have won eight of their last 11 road games. … Anthony moved to second place in Denver’s rookie scoring list with 1,185 points. LaPhonso Ellis is first with 1,205 points in the 1992-93 season. … Denver’s Marcus Camby played sparingly in the second half because of a strained right groin. … The crowdof 19,812 was the largest ever for a Nuggets game.