DENVER (AP) -The Denver Nuggets couldn't defend Pau Gasol in Game 1 or Kobe Bryant in Game 2.
So, what makes them think they can turn things around in their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers?
``We're home, man,'' Allen Iverson said. ``They got a chance to play in front of their home crowd, and we want that same type of advantage playing in front of ours.''
The homecourt is about the only thing the Nuggets have successfully defended all season.
They rode the energy of the Pepsi Center to a 33-8 record, including a series of clutch must-win triumphs over the final six weeks that allowed them to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
``It's our turn to hold serve,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said Thursday. ``It's a great challenge, a lot of fun. The homecourt's been kind of our biggest ally all year long.''
Game 3 is Saturday and Game 4 is Monday night.
The Nuggets looked haggard as they filtered out of film study Thursday, most of them not wanting to stop and talk about being in a 2-0 hole after allowing a staggering 250 points so far.
``I think it might just be a travel day of getting to bed at 4:30 in the morning,'' Karl said. ``There's a heaviness to waiting sometimes. We'll have a good practice tomorrow. I thought we got a little bit better last night. We didn't get better enough to win the game, but we got a little bit better.''
The Nuggets hung with the Lakers until the fourth quarter after watching Gasol tear them up for 36 points in a 128-114 loss in Game 1. But Bryant scored 19 points in a 4:19 stretch of the fourth quarter, leading L.A. to a 122-107 win Wednesday night.
The Nuggets, however, insist they'll show up Saturday with a swagger and not a stagger.
``My sense is all year long when this team had its true back to the wall, they've responded great and the homecourt's been a big part of that,'' Karl said. ``I think there's an energy out there. Statistically there's all sorts of positives that come our way here. We play better defense here. We make people miss more shots here. ...''
And all those clutch wins late in the season give the Nuggets plenty of confidence they can come back on L.A.
``Well, to us they were pretty much like playoff games,'' Marcus Camby said. ``Going down that stretch, especially, late March and all of April, were all must-wins. So, we pretty much know how to perform under pressure.''
The Nuggets ranked next-to-last in the NBA by allowing 107 points a game in the regular season despite leading the league in both blocks (6.72) and steals (9.17). So, it's not surprising the Lakers have piled up 250 points.
``It's a high-paced game,'' Gasol said. ``They keep it real fast, an up-and-down game. You take advantage of what they give you.''
Opponents haven't had as much success against the Nuggets in Denver, and Bryant said it's imperative for the Lakers to duplicate their energy, execution and emotion on the road to change that.
``Not getting too high, not getting too low. Even keel, keeping our poise,'' Bryant said. ``They're a great home team. I think altitude is a factor the first few minutes. They play with a lot of energy.
``I think we're doing OK, we're playing typical playoff basketball. That being said, we haven't put together four explosive quarters that I think we're capable of. The important thing is getting the Ws.''
Lakers point guard Derek Fisher isn't expecting any surprises from the Nuggets in Game 3, either.
``I don't think you're going to see wholesale changes. They believe in their style of play,'' Fisher said. ``Defensively, I think they'll play even more zone than we saw last night. I don't expect them to do too many things differently than they've done so far. I just expect them to do them better on their home court.''
So do the Nuggets.
``We still feel good about ourselves,'' Linas Kleiza said. ``We've got to do what we're supposed to do, and that's defend our homecourt. We've been good all year at our home, so it should be exciting if we do that and the series is back where it started.''
Notes: Ronny Turiaf, who missed Game 2 with tonsillitis, is expected to make the trip to Denver on Friday. ... Karl on his son, Coby, playing against the Nuggets in Game 2: ``It's a proud moment for the family that is to be cherished and celebrated. But it will not be done in the next two weeks.''

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