kobe bryant

Kobe Bryant scored 38 points, Andrew Bynum followed up his playoff-opening triple-double with 27 points and nine rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers weathered Denver’s late rally for a 104-100 victory over the Nuggets on Tuesday night, taking a 2-0 series lead.

Pau Gasol had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the third-seeded Lakers, who still haven’t trailed in this series despite nearly crumbling against a much-improved effort by the Nuggets and Ty Lawson, who scored 25 points and led the fourth-quarter charge.

Los Angeles’ 19-point lead in the third quarter dwindled to four with 3 minutes to play, but Ramon Sessions scored four key points in the final 1:14 before Bryant’s icing free throws with 9.4 seconds left.

Game 3 is Friday in Denver.

Lawson shook his awful series opener with 17 second-half points, but the sixth-seeded Nuggets lost their ninth straight road playoff game despite playing much closer to their preferred speedy tempo after the Lakers muzzled them in Game 1.

Sessions scored 14 points for Los Angeles, which played just enough fast-break ball of its own to stay ahead of Denver - and now the Lakers are halfway to the second round. They have only lost one playoff series in franchise history after winning the first two games, going 42-1.

Kenneth Faried had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Danilo Gallinari and Corey Brewer added 13 points apiece, but Denver still couldn’t consistently defend Bryant or negate Bynum, who played another outstanding low-post game on both ends until disappearing a bit in a three-point fourth quarter.

– Reported by Greg Beacham of the Associated Press