The Denver Nuggets, in a must-win situation, topped the Los Angeles Lakers 102-99 in Game 5 of the NBA first round playoff series last night in the Staples Center. The Nuggets should have known it would be their night after Kobe Bryant shot an air ball to start the game. LA leads the series 3-2, with Game 6 tomorrow night back in Denver. (TV: Attitude/TNT).

The Lakers made a few pushes after the first quarter, once to tie the game 29-29 with 7:11 remaining in the first half, and the final time when Bryant swished four 3-pointers during a 21-8 run that cut the deficit to two points with 59 seconds remaining. After the Nuggets shot 2-for-4 from the free-throw line over the next 40 seconds, Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions cut the deficit to one with a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left. Two seconds later, the Lakers fouled Denver point guard Andre Miller and he sank both free throws to push the lead back to three. Both Bryant and Sessions got off 3-point attempts in the final seconds but neither fell, sending the game back to Denver for Game 6.

Official: Game 5 Box Score.

With two 7-footers in the starting lineup, the Lakers should have owned the paint, but were outscored 58-44 by the much more energetic Nuggets. Bench scoring was also a key area in the game. The Nuggets owned that advantage, 50-19.

Tickets are available for tomorrow night’s round-1 playoff game at Pepsi Center vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, and can be purchased by calling (303) 405-1111, or click here.

[Denver Nuggets.com]