LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers produced a second half comeback to beat the Denver Nuggets 95-89 Sunday, and record their first victory over their Western Conference rivals this season.
Lamar Odom recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds off the bench and Kobe Bryant made up for a poor shooting day with 12 assists as the Lakers came from 11 points down in the third quarter to triumph in a clash of the top teams in the Western Conference.
"Mentally we had to let them know that if we play the right way we can beat them," Odom told reporters after his team had been routed in two previous meetings with the Nuggets.
"Teams you feel like you're going to see down the road, you want to let them know you can beat them."
Los Angeles trailed for most of the game before Bryant, who made just three baskets from 17 attempts from the floor, made two free throws to give his team a 91-89 edge with 3:02 remaining.
Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 21 points for Denver before fouling out with 2:19 remaining. The Nuggets (39-20) had beaten the Lakers (45-15) in their two previous meetings this season.
The final quarter went back and forth with Chauncey Billups giving his team a late lead twice with jump shots before Ron Artest put the Lakers up 89-87 with a three-pointer.
Artest had 17 points and six steals while playing smothering defense on Anthony who finished 7-for-19 from the field.
Bryant struggled from the outside but was routinely double teamed and managed to find his team mates for easy scores including Pau Gasol, who scored 15 points and made 14 rebounds.
"I had to get into playoff mode a little bit, we put the ball in my hand and just let me make the decision," Bryant said.
"I caught the ball in the post and made them double me."
Buillups scored 17 points, while Arron Afflalo added 16 for the Nuggets, who shot just 35 percent from the field and fell 5- games behind Los Angeles.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)