Some say a series doesn't really start until a team loses at home.
If that's the case the Denver Nuggets hope to turn their Western Conference quarterfinals set with the Los Angeles Lakers into a best-of-three affair by holding serve in Game 4 at the Pepsi Center.
After losing the first two games of the series in LA, Denver rebounded emphatically in the Rockies on Friday when Ty Lawson scored 25 points and the Nuggets rode a strong start to a 99-84 win over the Lakers in Game 3.
Denver had never led in the series entering Friday, but jumped out to a 16- point advantage in the first quarter and Los Angeles never fully recovered.
"Every game we played the Lakers we were down. We were down early, we were down big," Lawson said. "...We made a point that we wanted to come out early and see how they did with a deficit."
JaVale McGee added 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks for the Nuggets, who lost forward Al Harrington to a fractured nose in the third quarter. Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller both scored 13 and Kenneth Faried finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Andrew Bynum admitted he was late arriving for Game 3 and bothered by the altitude in Denver but did score 18 points -- all in the second half -- and grabbed 12 points for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant scored 18 points but was just 7- of-23 shooting.
"They executed extremely well, they played with a lot of intensity. And for us, it was a good learning experience for some of our young guys," Bryant said.
Lawson was instrumental to the fast start. He scored 13 points during Denver's 18-2 run to close the first. His final bucket of the quarter came in transition, when he made a layup, drew a foul and sunk the free throw for a 30-14 lead heading into the second.
There Denver grabbed its largest lead of the game -- 24 points -- when McGee opened with a layup and Harrington followed with a three-pointer. The Lakers managed to methodically reduce their deficit as the game continued but could never get over the top.
"I'm not a big fan of 20-point leads in the first half," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I'm kind of glad it turned out to be a hard game, at least a game where we had to make fourth-quarter plays."
LA coach Mike Brown, who has butted heads with Bynum throughout the season, wasn't happy with is All-Star center's tardiness and lack of professionalism.
"You hope at this time of the season everyone who steps on the floor is ready," said Brown.
Bryant was more forgiving.
"He's extremely open and honest with you guys," Kobe told a group of reporters Saturday. "I'm sure you guys appreciate that. The first step to improving as a player is admitting to yourself that you've done something wrong and (knowing) how to correct that."
History is still against the Nuggets in this series. LA is a gaudy 42-1 all- time when taking a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
Meanwhile, these two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in the past five years (2008, 2009). In fact, the Nuggets and LA have met on five different occasions (1979, '85, '87, 2008, '09) with the Lakers advancing each time, most recently defeating Denver 4-2 in the '09 Western Conference finals en route to the franchise's last NBA title.
The Lakers also won the 2011-12 season series with the Nuggets 3-1 after dropping last season's series (1-2) as well as the 2009-10 series (1-3).
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series will take place on Tuesday back in Los Angeles.