Lakers center Andrew Bynum fights for possession of the ball during the… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The Lakers walked off the Staples Center court feeling fulfilled Friday night despite the absence of their coach and leading scorer.
Matt Barnes made a three-pointer and a floating jumper in the final minutes as part of his season-high 24 points to help the Lakers hold on for a 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets that came with Kobe Bryant sidelined because of a shin injury and Coach Mike Brown having left the arena before the game because of an undisclosed personal issue.
Assistant John Kuester coached the Lakers in Brown's absence.
Barnes made nine of 11 shots and had nine rebounds plus added an alley-oop pass to Andrew Bynum for a dunk in the final minute, but he didn't completely escape controversy.
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Barnes received a technical foul with 2 minutes 24 seconds left and the Lakers leading 94-90 for complaining about a call on a ball that was ruled to have gone out of bounds on the Lakers, but Arron Afflalo missed the ensuing free throw.
Pau Gasol then blocked a driving layup by Andre Miller and Barnes made one of two free throws after being fouled by JaVale McGree.
Bynum had 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting to go with eight rebounds, the latter statstic failing to live up to the Lakers center's 30-rebound haul against San Antonio on Wednesday. Metta World Peace and Gasol finished with 14 points each for the Lakers.
Andre Miller scored 20 points off the bench and Afflalo, the former UCLA star, had 18 points for the Nuggets, who are a potential first-round playoff opponent for the Lakers.
Lakers 79, Nuggets 71 (end of third quarter)
Boom, boom Pau.
Back-to-back dunks by Pau Gasol seemed to shake the Lakers out of their malaise against Denver in the third quarter.
Gasol grabbed a missed free throw and was fouled by Danilo Gallinari while dunking the put-back. Gasol then took an outlet pass from Ramon Sessions for a one-handed dunk that had the Staples Center crowd roaring.
Not to be outdone, the Lakers' Andrew Bynum made several crowd-pleasing plays, including a pair of jump hooks and a nifty spin move for a layup to help his team extend its lead back to double digits.
Bynum has 24 points and seven rebounds while Metta World Peace, who had a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup, has 14 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers.
Andre Miller leads Denver with 16 points.
Lakers 54, Nuggets 48 (halftime)
There shouldn't be much suspense regarding what fill-in Lakers coach John Kuester will address at halftime after a second quarter in which his team regressed mightily on defense.
The Denver Nuggets turned portions of the quarter into a glorified layup line while closing to within two points before the Lakers made a late push. Veteran point guard Andre Miller was particularly hard to stop for the Lakers, scoring eight points on largely uncontested shots.
Matt Barnes has provided a lift with 15 points on six-for-seven shooting off the bench to lead the way for the Lakers, including a 16-foot fadeaway jumper at the halftime buzzer.
Metta World Peace and Andrew Bynum have 11 points apiece for the Lakers, but Bynum does not appear to be on the way to a repeat of his 30-rebound performance from two days ago against San Antonio, grabbing only three in 17 first-half minutes.
Miller leads Denver with 10 points.
Lakers 30, Nuggets 19 (end of first quarter)
Kobe Bryant wasn't the only Lakers mainstay missing in action in the first quarter Friday night at Staples Center.
Lakers spokesman John Black told Fox Sports reporter Lindsay Rhodes that Coach Mike Brown had to leave the arena before the team played the Denver Nuggets because of undisclosed personal reasons, leaving assistant John Kuester to take over the coaching duties.
The Lakers looked just fine without their coach and leading scorer, taking an early double-digit lead behind excellent ball movement and a strong effort from Metta World Peace. The small forward had seven points, two rebounds and two assists in the first quarter.
Andrew Bynum added 10 points and took three rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 52% from the field to the Nuggets' 34.8% and were outrebounding them, 15-9. Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson had four points each for Denver.
It wasn't the first time this season that Kuester has filled in for Brown; Kuester also did it against Philadelphia in February after Brown was suspended for making contact with an official in the previous game.
Bryant was sitting out a fourth consecutive game because of a sore left shin, with the Lakers having gone 2-1 in his first three games on the sideline.
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