By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Pau Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, Metta World Peace scored 15 points in his return from a seven-game suspension, and the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Denver Nuggets for a thrilling 96-87 victory in Game 7 on Saturday night to win their first-round series.
Steve Blake scored a playoff career-high 19 points and Kobe Bryant had 17 points and eight assists for the Lakers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before surviving a finale with wild momentum swings and furious physical play. With Gasol leading an emotional effort, the Lakers narrowly avoided becoming the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead.
Andrew Bynum had 16 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for Los Angeles.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)