DENVER — The Denver Nuggets view tonight's Game 5 at Staples Center as all-important in the best-of-seven series against the Lakers.
Because the Lakers have the home-court advantage, and if the series, which is tied at 2-2, happens to go to seven games, the Nuggets know the difficulty most NBA teams have faced of trying to win on the road in the deciding game.
"My focus to them is [tonight's] game is our must-win game, almost as much as" Game 4 was, Denver Coach George Karl said Tuesday before his team watched film of Monday night's impressive victory over the Lakers.
"We right now have, I think, made somewhat of a move. The challenge then is [for the Lakers] to try to figure us out a little bit more.
"I think we won the energy game last night. Can we win the energy game down there? That would be a big step toward getting a win."
In NBA history, road teams are 21-83 in Game 7s. The Orlando Magic was the last team to win a Game 7 on the road, defeating the Celtics at Boston on May 17.
The Lakers-Nuggets is a best-of-three series now, a series the Nuggets are confident they can win.
The Nuggets won Game 2 at Staples Center and lost a close Game 1 there.
"We've still got to win out there," Kenyon Martin said. "We need to win a game out there and there's no better game than the fifth one."
Having a healthy Carmelo Anthony will help Denver's cause.
Anthony had a stomach virus that caused him to get an IV during Game 4. He also injured his right ankle in Game 4. "I'm fine," said Anthony, who shot three for 16 from the field in Game 4 and scored just 15 points. "I'm not worried about me."
The Nuggets cleared a hurdle when guard Dahntay Jones was given a flagrant foul 1 by the NBA on Tuesday for tripping Kobe Bryant during Game 4, but Jones was not suspended.
Jones, who maintained again that the trip wasn't intentional, wasn't called for a foul on the play that left Bryant irate and had Lakers Coach Phil Jackson calling it a dirty play.
"We got tangled up," Jones said. "It was a small play that didn't affect the win or the loss. It didn't affect the possession. It was an accident. I got penalized for it."
The NBA on Tuesday also downgraded Lakers center Andrew Bynum's flagrant foul in Game 4 to a personal foul.
Hitting the boards
The Nuggets want to continue to be aggressive and attack the backboards. They out-rebounded the Lakers, 58-40, collecting 20 offensive rebounds in Game 4.
"I think if we [are] aggressive on both ends and keep attacking the glass no matter what, it'll be the same results," said Martin, who had 15 rebounds.
Denver expects the Lakers to be aggressive, to attack, and to force the action tonight.
The Nuggets said they'll be ready.
"I don't think this series is anything but a pretty even NBA playoff series," Karl said. "They're not liking us, we're not liking them and it's not going to get any kinder. It's going to get harder, tougher."