Kobe Bryant had the flu, but it was the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers who were sick.
The upstart Denver Nuggets, a 1½-point home favorite, jumped out to a 13-0 lead and were never headed in coasting to a 113-96 win that evened the best of 7 series at 3-3.
Ty Lawson scored 32 points, fellow spark plug Corey Brewer added 18 and the free-wheeling, too-young-to-scare Nuggets forced a Game 7 in Los Angeles.
‘’This is the biggest game he’s ever played in and Saturday will be even bigger,’’ Nuggets coach George Karl said of Lawson, whose 32 points were a career-playoff high.
The decisive game Saturday night at the Staples Center, will mark the return of World Peace, who served a six-game suspension. Laker fans expected World Peace to return for Game 1 against Oklahoma City. Instead, he’s back for an elimination game after the Lakers blew a 3-1 series lead.
This will be Denver’s first all-or-nothing showdown since losing to Utah in Game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference semifinals. But it would be a mistake to think the young team will cave under the pressure of a win-or-go-home scenario.
They have not only held their own against the Lakers, they have made them look old, not experienced.
Bryant followed his 43-point outburst in Game 5 with 31 points in 3½ quarters despite a sour stomach that he said left his hotel room ‘’looking like a scene from ‘The Exorcist,’’’ and also prevented him from attending the Lakers’ morning shoot-around and forced him to take intravenous fluids all day.
Bryant’s teammates felt even worse – for letting him down, especially fellow stars Andrew Bynum, who made just 4 of 11 shots for 11 points, and Pau Gasol, who was 1 for 10 for three points with three rebounds.
Asked if he felt his teammates had matched his heart, Bryant retorted, ‘’No, of course theydidn’t.’’