Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers Outlast Nuggets 105-103 In Series Opener

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  (R-L) Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk to the bench late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 105-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
John Louie RamosSenior Writer IMay 20, 2009

It was a tale of two stellar performances from world class athletes trying to outplay each other.

In the end, the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers proved to be too much for the visiting Carmelo Anthony-fueled Denver Nuggets.

Bryant scored 18 of his 40 points in the critical pay-off period en route to a 105-103 victory in the western conference series opener.

Not to be outdone, Anthony played magnificently all game long, scoring 39 points highlighted by seven three-pointers for a losing, yet massive, effort.

The famed Staples Center, home of glamorous Hollywood events, turned into a savage gladiator arena from tip-off up to the end of the 48-minute see-saw battle, which saw a determined Nuggets squad up to the challenge of dethroning the western conference champion.

The Nuggets led by as many as 13 points and controlled the game early on.

With less than six minutes remaining, the Nuggets held a six point advantage and appeared to be poised to win Game One as Anthony, Chauncey Billups and the rest of the gang of blue played smooth and steady.

But as the saying goes "you can never underestimate the heart of a champion."

The Lakers furiously crawled back into the game, courtesy of last minute heroics from Bryant, Derek Fisher, Trevor Ariza, and Pau Gasol.

Fisher hit a big three with less than three minutes to go to give the Lakers a one-point cushion, while Ariza and Gasol starred in key defensive stops to ensure the Lakers' victory.

Hence, the brightest star that shined that night was perhaps Bryant's, who sank crucial free throws down the stretch and grabbed the most important rebound of a miss free throw by Nuggets' J.R. Smith.

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