DENVER (AP) — Kobe Bryant spent all day under the weather and the way his teammates let him down made him feel even worse.
The Los Angeles Lakers star scored 31 points despite a stomach ailment, but was upset with the performance of his supporting cast as the Denver Nuggets rolled to a 113-96 win Thursday night to force a Game 7 in their first-round playoff series.
Bryant was quick to respond when asked if his teammates matched his heart.
"No, of course they didn't," he said.
Bryant suited up despite an upset stomach that he said left his hotel room "looking like a scene from 'The Exorcist.'" He was so sick that he didn't attend the morning shootaround before the game and had to take intravenous fluids all day.
"We let each other down, for sure," Bryant explained. "We didn't step up and meet their energy and they know that."
Then again, the Nuggets played with an energy that would've been hard to match as they sent the series back to Staples Center for an all-or-nothing showdown on Saturday night. Ty Lawson scored 32 points and reserve Corey Brewer added 18 to help the Nuggets tie up a series that many thought was over when they sank into a 3-1 hole.
"We can't get too high off this," rookie Kenneth Faried said. "We have to stay focused."
Faried was part of the contingent that bottled up Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Gasol was held to just three points while Bynum struggled from the field — eventually finishing with 11 points and 16 boards — before taking a seat for most of the fourth quarter.
Lakers coach Mike Brown was disappointed with the play of Bynum and Gasol, a sentiment shared by Bryant, who urged them to be more assertive.
"It's one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position where you have no other option but to perform," Bryant said. "You have to emotionally put yourself with your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there is no other option but to perform.
"When you have that, when you put yourself in that mind state, then your performance shines through."
That's precisely the way the Nuggets played: With desperation and determination.
"It was really fun," Brewer said. "The crowd was into the game and we were playing well."
Lawson set the tone early by lifting the Nuggets to a 13-0 lead to begin the game. He hit his first shot and then another — his confidence soaring with every jumper that left his hand.
The speedy point guard finished 13 of 18 from the field, including five 3-pointers.
For his newfound stroke, he can thank his shooting coach, Ivory Manning, whom Lawson flew in the night before to fix some mechanical flaws.
"He got my shot right," Lawson said.
Did he ever — at an opportune time, too.
"This was a big game, the biggest game he's probably ever played in," coach George Karl said. "And Saturday will be even bigger."
The Lakers are hoping to bounce back from this rocky performance, possibly rediscover the swagger that's suddenly gone missing.
"It's a game where it's all about heart, all about bringing it," Gasol said. "That's what we're going to have to do to beat this team."
Here's some encouraging news for the Lakers: Metta World Peace will be back for series finale. Thursday night was the seventh and final game of his suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head last month.