LOS ANGELES - The Denver Nuggets staved off elimination Tuesday by surviving a fourth-quarter surge to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-99 in game five of their Western Conference NBA first-round playoff series.
Andre Miller scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half for Denver who were fired up after the Lakers centre Andrew Bynum had earlier predicted that Los Angeles would have little trouble disposing of the Nuggets.
"It is bulletin board material but a guy has to back it up," Lakers coach Mike Brown said of Bynum's comments. "We have got to help him back it up and, as a team... we didn't do that."
Denver coach George Karl said he used Bynum's comments to motivate his players in a rousing speech before the game at the Staples Center.
"His feelings on close-out games is a little different than my history of being in them and I told my players that," Karl said. "I think he is wrong. I think it is the hardest thing in the world to win that fourth game."
The Denver win spoiled a brilliant second half performance from Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who scored 14 of his 43 points in the fourth.
The Nuggets led by as much as 15 points at one stage in the fourth quarter before Bryant sparked the Los Angeles fightback.
He had a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer in the final seconds, but his shot from the left side was too long.
"We didn't play with the effort we should have. We weren't able to knock down shots and make them pay," said Bryant.
"We clearly weren't ready.
"I almost bailed us out. But it can't be that way, we all have to step up."
Ramon Sessions also had an chance to send the game into overtime for the Lakers, but his shot hit the rim and the Nuggets escaped with the win.
Los Angeles, who lead the series 3-2, will get another chance to reach the second round in game six in Denver on Thursday.