Los Angeles Lakers

Not So Fast! Kobe Scores 41, Lifts Los Angeles Lakers to Win and 2-1 Series Lead

DENVER - MAY 23:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Kenyon Martin #4 of the Denver Nuggets in the second half of Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 23, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Joey GrissoContributor IMay 24, 2009

Ever since the beginning of the playoffs, NBA fans all around the country have been hoping for a Kobe vs. LeBron match up in the finals.

Not so fast, said Denver, who took Game Two in Los Angeles to even the series at one game apiece and, for much of last night, looked like they were poised to take the series lead.

Now Kobe can tell the Nuggets to take some of their own advice.

The guard scored 41 points last night, including four last minute free throws, to propel the Lakers to a 103-97 come from behind win at the Pepsi Center.

"It was kind of funny," noted Trevor Ariza, who sank a pair of free throws and stole an inbounds pass in the final minute. "It was pretty much the same thing, different players. But we got the steal. We got a win, that's the most important thing."

A win is definatly important for LA, who will face Denver again Monday night. Tickets are sold out.

"After a tough loss, you’ve got to have a short memory, especially in the playoffs," said Chauncey Billups, who finished with 18 points and went 5-for-15 from the field. "It’s unfortunate, but this is the Western Conference finals. This is great basketball. It’s going to be a tough, long series."

Hopefully that is true for Denver. If it is, they cannot choke again like they did last night.

For much of last night, it looked like the Nuggets were the team to overcome. Midway into the fourth quarter, the Lakers only lead was a 12-11 advantage early in the first quarter.

J.R. Smith hit a three pointer to end the third quarter, and although he also drew a technical, Denver fans were ecstatic. They had just equaled their largest lead and with only one quarter left to play, it was obviously their game to lose.

And lose it they did. Heading into the final fourth of the game with a 79-71 lead and an unstoppably loud crowd behind them, Denver was outscored 32-18 in the fourth quarter and lost their once seemingly untouchable lead several times.

Although J.R. Smith hit a jumper that put them up 95-93 with a minute and a half left to play, Kobe Bryant responded with a three pointer with 1:09 left that put Los Angeles ahead for good, 96-95.

Chris Andersen's preformance was one of the few highlights for Denver. The Birdman scored 15 bench points, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots while playing just half of the game.

Carmelo Anthony finished with 21, including 14 in the first quarter, while shooting 4-for-13. On the other side of the ball, Pau Gasol added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"I think Gasol was the key to them winning tonight," Melo admitted.

Denver will need to find their own key if they hope to even the series Monday night.

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