Kobe Bryant(notes) scored a season-high 34 points and Pau Gasol(notes) had 17 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers, who were trying to win their first nine games for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
Bryant came in needing 17 points to reach 26,000 for his career. He hit the milestone with a 13-foot jumper 49 seconds into the third quarter.
Los Angeles was leading by 10 early in the fourth when the Nuggets rallied behind Lawson. The speedy point guard scored 11 points in a 16-0 run that gave them a 101-95 lead.
The Nuggets made a run of their own and cut the lead to 79-74 on Al Harrington’s(notes) 3-pointer. Bryant answered right back with two of his own to push the lead to 85-76 with 4:20 left in the third.
Smith’s three-point play got Denver within 89-85 late in the third, but Anthony was called for a loose-ball foul and a technical on Los Angeles’ next possession. Bryant hit the free throw and Brown nailed a 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 93-85 lead heading into the fourth.
Bryant struggled from the field in the first half, shooting 4 of 14 for 13 points. He was 11 for 32 for the game.
The teams traded leads throughout the first half. The Lakers finished the second quarter on a 9-4 run to take a 64-59 lead at the break.
Notes: Bryant is the youngest player (32 years, 80 days) in NBA history to reach 26,000 points, besting Wilt Chamberlain by 34 days. … Lakers F Theo Ratliff(notes) sat out with tendinitis in his left knee.