DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets certainly didn't quit. Neither did Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers were in danger of coughing up Game 4, but Bryant propped them back up. The Nuggets were on the verge of booking another couple of nights in Los Angeles, but Bryant ruined their travel plans.
He came alive in the fourth quarter, as he had so many times this season, and whisked the Lakers into the next round with a 107-101 victory Monday night at the Pepsi Center.
Bryant had 14 points in the final 5:31 and finished with 31 as the Lakers brushed away the Nuggets, four games to none.
After consecutive seasons of frustrating playoff exits against Phoenix, along with a non-playoff hiccup in 2004-05, the Lakers advanced beyond the first round for the first time since 2004. They hadn't swept a playoff series since beating New Jersey in the 2002 NBA Finals.
On a less historical plane, but still noteworthy, the Lakers were the only team to pull off a first-round sweep this season.
They'll play the winner of the Utah-Houston series, which could end tonight in Houston. Utah holds a 3-1 lead.
They're looking at several days before their next game, which will be at Staples Center on a date to be determined.
After three seasons of failure, there's finally some rest for the weary -- for Bryant, that is.
"I've been fortunate enough to win three titles, so for me, getting out of the first round is not that big of a deal," Bryant said. "Now it kind of feels like I'm back home. This is where we belong.
"Derek [Fisher] and I kind of looked at each other in the locker room and it was kind of like, 'OK, this smells familiar for us.' Lamar [Odom] and Pau [Gasol] and those guys were excited, as they should be, to get out of the first round. And we are as well, but we're playing for bigger stakes."
Bryant was lingering under the radar, actually committing a few too many third-quarter gaffes for Coach Phil Jackson's liking, and had only 17 points on seven-for-18 shooting before asserting himself in the scoring column.
He hit an 18-foot turnaround as the shot clock expired to give the Lakers a 90-88 lead with 5:31 to play.
Then he hit a three-pointer, a left-handed finger roll after spinning around J.R. Smith, a 21-footer, a free throw, an eight-foot running bank and two more free throws.
He missed two free throws in the final seconds, but, well, whatever. All in all, he hit five of six shots down the stretch.
"There's a time when Kobe does really come back and fill that need," Jackson said.
The Lakers picked up other notable efforts: Gasol had 21 points and four blocks, Odom 14 points and 12 rebounds.
There was also no overlooking the importance of Luke Walton in the final minutes.
The Nuggets tried to slow Bryant's run with a double team, but Bryant swung the ball to Walton in the corner, all alone. Walton hit a three-pointer to give the Lakers just enough breathing room, 100-96, with 2:37 to play.
The Nuggets were spry from the start, looking nothing like the team that was never involved in a 102-84 Game 3 loss.
"It ain't over," Kenyon Martin yelled out after dunking to bring the Nuggets to within 56-50 with 2:58 left in the second quarter.
He was right. It was about 27 minutes from being over.
The Nuggets had their bursts in the second half, eating into a 13-point deficit and taking a 73-71 lead when Linas Kleiza hit an 11-footer with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
But the Lakers, not the Nuggets, get to wait and see who survives the Utah-Houston series.
"Hopefully it'll go seven games so we can get some rest," Odom said. "It doesn't matter [who we play]. We have a deep enough roster to compete with anybody."
About the only news that didn't fit into the Lakers' scheme of things was a slew of reports out of New Orleans that had the Hornets' Byron Scott winning the NBA coach-of-the-year award.
Jackson has won nine championships, tied with Red Auerbach for most in NBA history, but has been selected coach of the year only once in his 17-year career, when the Bulls went 72-10 in 1995-96.
He'll have to wait, again, but there's that other award still possible for the Lakers. Their fans chanted "M-V-P" numerous times Monday, as if to hammer home the point.
The story line of the Nuggets series could best be found in one play, a missed alley-oop dunk by Carmelo Anthony that bounced all the way to the front of the scorer's table at midcourt. Out of bounds, of course.
That kind of night for the Nuggets. That kind of series.
Anthony had 21 points on eight-for-20 shooting. Allen Iverson had 22 points on 10-for-22 shooting.
The rest of the West now awaits the Lakers.
"I don't know if I'd go bet on the Lakers," Nuggets Coach George Karl said, "but they're damn good."