Lakers clinch playoff slot
Andrew Bynum scored 30 points and Matt Barnes had a season-high 24 as the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff spot with a 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers overcame the absences of its coach and best player to win its third straight.
Kobe Bryant missed a fourth consecutive game with a left shin injury. The Lakers are listing their star guard as day-to-day, leaving Bryant’s status up in the air for Sunday’s game against Dallas.
Lakers head coach Mike Brown was not on the sidelines after leaving Staples Center shortly before tipoff to tend to a personal matter. Assistant John Kuester served as head coach.
Barnes helped pick up the slack, hitting all four of his 3-pointers to go with 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacific Division-leading Lakers, who survived despite committing 23 turnovers.
Andre Miller led the way with 20 points for Denver. Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington each had 18.
The Nuggets were within a basket early in the third quarter when the Lakers took control with a 14-4 run. Bynum started the spurt with a free throw and dunk and finished it with a jumper and layup for a 70-58 cushion.
Harrington’s 3-pointer with 3:36 remaining pulled the Nuggets back within 91-90. Barnes answered with a 3 on the other end, Gasol blocked Miller’s shot and Barnes then made a free throw for a 95-90 edge with 2:12 left.
Despite the loss, Denver remained in a tie for the No. 8 spot in the West.