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Shannon Brown hit a wide-open 3-pointer to start it and Gasol and Bryant combined to add 11 points in the spurt. Bryant's 3 with 1:39 remaining gave the Lakers a 13-point lead.
While most of the focus was on Bynum's return, it was Gasol who got the Lakers going. He was one rebound shy of a double-double by the end of the first quarter and had six points as part of an 8-0 run that gave Los Angeles a 32-21 lead.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson turned the game over to his bench in the second quarter, but subbed his starters back in at the 5:50 mark in an attempt to slow the Nuggets down.
They provided a spark for a few minutes before Denver went on a 12-4 run behind a pair of 3s from Smith, one a buzzer-beater that tied the game at 56 going into halftime.
Notes: Kenyon Martin missed his fourth consecutive game, but should return to the lineup on Monday when the Nuggets host Sacramento. ... Jackson wants to see how Bynum and Gasol work together before the playoffs. "They played really well together before. A big part is getting them both on the court together," Jackson said. ... The Lakers honored the memory of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and the two others who died in an early morning crash with a moment of silence before the game. ... Bryant needs two points to pass Charles Barkley on the NBA's career scoring list.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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