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Skid Rocks

NBA : LAKERS 92, DENVER 89

Fisher's diving, sliding hustle play, the kind Lakers need, pushes them past Nuggets

January 01, 2012|Mike Bresnahan

Derek Fisher scraped the years off his age and left them strewn across the Staples Center court.

He was 37 going on 25 for a few brief seconds Saturday, flying from the top of the three-point line to the sideline to track down a long rebound of his missed shot.

He beat Denver speedster Ty Lawson to the ball, grabbed it as he hit the floor and called time out, an appropriate metaphor for the Lakers' 92-89 victory over the Nuggets.

It keyed up his teammates and the crowd with 2 minutes 29 seconds to play, putting an exclamation point near the end of a game that belonged almost exclusively to Andrew Bynum, who had 29 points and 13 rebounds in his season debut.

Fisher had as many fouls as points (six) but also the play of the game, if not the Lakers' three-game winning streak.

"That's Derek," Kobe Bryant said. "That's how you win championships, by making plays like that."

It's what the Lakers will need, a season-long transition from elite to energetic possibly taking them back to elite in June.

The poster to be framed Saturday was Fisher in front of his locker after the game, knees wrapped in ice, feet submerged in a yellow ice bucket.

He had just played his 500th consecutive regular-season game, the NBA's longest active streak. There was a scratch on his nose, from the elbow of one of Denver's big men earlier in the game, Nene or Timofey Mozgov. Fisher wasn't sure.

This will be the way the Lakers have to win.

"I agree 100%," Fisher said. "It's not just an identity change from Phil Jackson to Mike Brown in terms of the style -- the triangle to more traditional NBA sets. But it really, truly is a complete change in culture where we have to be physical, we have to be scrappy and we have to be able to win these games in the 80s. That will have to symbolize who we are."

The Lakers are on to something defensively, holding Utah to 71 points, New York to 82 and then keeping the league's highest-scoring team 22 points below its average coming into Saturday.

"We play hard-nosed basketball around here," Bryant said. "It's going to get ugly sometimes."

Bryant was close to a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He shot poorly, making six of 18, but the Lakers didn't need him to score. Not when Bynum made 13 of 18 shots after coming back from a four-game suspension for drilling Jose Barea in last season's playoffs.

"Big Fella is a load to deal with," Brown said. "I think he should be a double-figure rebounding guy and a double-figure scorer. He can do both for us as well as play defense."

The Lakers' long-distance issues -- two for 24 from three-point range (8.3%) -- almost cost them. Their defense, and a little luck, saved them.

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari had a chance to tie the score at 91-91, but he missed a fastbreak layup with 1.9 seconds left.

Gallinari had a step on Bryant and shouldn't have been bothered by fast-closing Steve Blake but the ball rolled off the rim.

"If you give Gallinari that layup attempt 100 more times in a row, he's probably going to make it," Brown said, adding that Blake's pursuit made Gallinari at least think about it.

"It was ugly," Brown said of the game, "but our guys figured a way to get it done."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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