The Lakers won the front end of the set in Staples Center when Andrew Bynum returned from a four-game suspension to score 29 points, grab 13 rebounds and hit the eventual game-winning shot in LA's narrow 92-89 win over the Nuggets on New Year's Eve.
Bynum initially received a five-game suspension for committing a hard foul on J.J. Barea in the finale of the Lakers' sweep at the hands of the Mavericks in last season's playoffs. The suspension was reduced to four games due to the shortened 66-game season, however.
"I was pretty winded today," said Bynum. "I wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to get the ball down low and make shots."
Al Harrington paced the Nuggets yesterday with 21 points, while Nene, Arron Afflalo and Andre Miller each finished with 13. Danilo Gallinari missed a potential tying layup with 1.9 seconds left as Denver dropped its second straight.
With the game deadlocked at 89, Bynum put his team on top by blocking a Nene shot, running the floor and converting a contested layup in the paint for a 91-89 lead.
The Nuggets -- particularly Gallinari -- failed to pull even down the stretch despite several opportunities. Ty Lawson missed a pair of free throws with 1:13 remaining and Gallinari was well off on an open three-point attempt seconds later.
With under 10 seconds remaining, Miller corralled a Bryant miss and found a streaking Gallinari, who was too strong with a left-handed layup. The ball hit glass and bounced harmlessly off the rim. Bryant grabbed the rebound and hit 1-of-2 foul shots to seal the win.
"The game of basketball treats you badly sometimes," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "We'll have to make adjustments."
Denver took two of three meetings with the Lakers a year ago.