The Denver Nuggets set the tone early, responded to a dirty play in the middle stages with a furious rally, and battled until the end of a wire-to-wire Game 6 victory over the LA Lakers, 113-96, on Thursday.
Facing elimination in the best-of-seven set, Denver opened the contest on a 13-0 run and never looked back, leading by as many as 28.
Ty Lawson netted 5-of-6 three-point attempts en route to a playoff career-high 32 points, Corey Brewer poured in 18 off the bench and Kenneth Faried continued his strong rookie campaign with 15 points and 11 boards.
Kobe Bryant missed the pre-game shootaround because of a stomach illness, but started and performed admirably nonetheless; he tallied 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting.
He teammates combined for just a 22-of-60 mark from the floor, however.
"The reality of it is, both [Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol] have to play better in order for us to win," Lakers head coach Mike Brown said. "We going to have a tough time winning if we get the same type of production not just offensively but on the defensive end of the floor too."
Bynum finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting while Gasol had three points on a 1-of-10 clip.
The decisive Game 7 will take place on Saturday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to play the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"We're going back to LA, we're all going to stick together and just follow the game plan and make sure we come out strong, because we don't want to be down early and have to come from behind," Lawson said.
Lawson took charge in the opening minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing three boards during the initial Denver outburst. The Nuggets settled on a 30-20 advantage after one.
The Lakers chipped away in the second quarter, trimming a 12-point deficit to just four with a little over a minute to play. But Aaron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari combined for the next five points to push the lead back to nine and Denver took a 54-45 edge into halftime.
The Pepsi Center crowd was justifiably horrified early in the third when Bryant -- who was reportedly fatigued during the intermission -- put a cheap hit on Faried. He drove his arm into the back of Faried's head while the rookie was in the air and unable to defend himself, earning a flagarant-1 foul.
Faried shook off the play and returned energized, hitting both flagarant free- throws and knocking down a jump hook a bit later before blocking the 7-foot Bynum's layup attempt.
All told, the Nuggets responded to Bryant's foul with an 11-4 run for their first 20-plus point lead of the night.
"I don't think [Bryant] tried to do it, I think it just came out that way," said Nuggets head coach George Karl. "But it definitely gave us an extra level of energy, an extra level of intensity, an extra level of momentum that carried probably for seven or eight minutes into a big lead."
Brewer poured it on early in the final stanza, scoring 11 points in just over four minutes, including a one-handed flush in transition to put Denver over the century mark, 101-73, and douse any chance at a Laker comeback.
Los Angeles' Metta World Peace served the final game of his seven-game suspension and is available for Game 7...The last NBA team to surrender a 3-1 deficit was the Lakers, in 2006 to Phoenix...Denver's last appearance in a Game 7 was a loss in the 1994 Western Conference semifinals to Utah.