By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Left to lick self-inflicted playoff wounds after being stunned by the visiting Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Denver for Thursday's Game Six knowing they need to regain energy and a sense of urgency.
The third-seeded Lakers wasted a golden opportunity to close out their best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series with a dismal shooting display in Tuesday's 102-99 loss to the fired-up and fast-paced Nuggets.
Though Los Angeles finally made a game of it with a stirring fightback sparked by Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter, they paid the penalty for a lackluster display, shooting only 38.9 percent from the field for their series lead to be cut to 3-2.
"We were all frustrated and didn't play the game we wanted to play," Spanish forward Pau Gasol, who contributed only nine points on four-of-11 shooting, said of the Lakers performance.
"We didn't bring the energy that was required to put this team away - and they did. They played more desperate than we did and with more energy, and that gave them the chance to take the game."
While also frustrated by his team's effort on Tuesday against the sixth-seeded Nuggets, Lakers coach Mike Brown has reminded his players they still hold the upper hand.
"The one thing our guys have to understand though is we're still 3-2, we're still in control of the series and we've just got to go on the road and get a win," Brown said. "Nobody said this was going to be easy. I don't go into any series thinking I'm going to sweep anybody, but you hope you do.
"So we're still sitting in a good spot but we obviously just made it tougher on ourselves. We've just got to go take care of business on the road."
The Nuggets are difficult to beat in the high altitude of Denver but the Lakers can feed off the positive memories of their gritty 92-88 road victory in Game Four which put them ahead 3-1 in the series.
"We're ready to get in there, play as good as we can and try to close this out," said Lakers reserve guard Steve Blake who made a three-pointer with 18 seconds to bury the Nuggets in Game Four.
"They are a good team, no question about it, so we're going to have to really focus and execute when we get there and try to get it in a tough environment."
Should the Lakers close out the series in the tough environment of Denver, they will next face the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder who swept the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the playoffs.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)