Bynum shot 13-for-18, helping the Lakers win their third in a row following the team’s first 0-2 start since 2002-03.
The 7-foot center was suspended without pay for the first four games of the season because of a flagrant foul against Dallas’ J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. The original ban was five games, but was reduced on Dec. 23 as a result of a shortened schedule caused by the NBA lockout.
Bynum totaled 41 points and 23 rebounds in two preseason games against the Clippers.
Kobe Bryant, bogged down by foul trouble, had 17 points along with nine assists and 10 rebounds. The Lakers overcame 2-for-24 shooting from three-point range.
Reserve forward Al Harrington had 21 points for the Nuggets, who have lost 25 of their last 29 road games against the Lakers.
The Lakers missed their first 12 shots from three-point range — all of them in the first half — before Matt Barnes connected with 11:11 left in the third to put Los Angeles ahead 49-47. The Nuggets weren’t much better from behind the arc, missing nine of their first 10 before finishing up 7-for-26.
Trailing 71-69 after three quarters, the Lakers tied it four times before Harrington’s three-pointer gave Denver an 85-80 lead with 5:29 to play. Bynum guided in a pass above the rim from Bryant and converted the ensuing free throw to narrow the gap to 89-87 with 3:23 left.
Derek Fisher, who fouled out with six points in his 500th consecutive game, missed a three-point shot trying to beat the 24-second clock — but hustled all the way to the other side of the court to fall on the loose ball and get a timeout with 2:29 remaining and the Lakers still down by two.
Bryant tied it 89-all with a pair of free throws and Bynum blocked a layup by Nene with two minutes left before converting a layup at the other end for a 91-89 lead with 1:50 to go.
The Nuggets had a few opportunities to pull it out. But Gasol blocked a layup by Ty Lawson, who then missed two free throws the next time the Nuggets had possession. Danilo Gallinari had a chance to tie it, but blew an easy fast-break layup after a missed jumper by Bryant at the other end.
Bynum made four of his first five shots and finished the first quarter with 10 points. Bryant, who averaged 27.8 points through the first four games despite playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist, missed his first three shots and played more than 14 scoreless minutes before ending the drought on a floater that put the Lakers ahead 38-36 with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
Notes: The Lakers have played six times on New Year’s Eve since coming to Los Angeles — all at home (5-1). Their rematch with the Nuggets on Sunday night will mark the first time the Lakers have played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in the same season since 1959-60, when the franchise was based in Minneapolis. … Bryant needs four points to become the sixth player in history to surpass 28,000. … Fisher’s consecutive-game streak is the NBA’s longest active streak. Former Lakers forward A.C. Green, a teammate of Fisher’s during the 1999-00 season, holds the league record with 1,192 in a row. “That’s what’s so amazing about what he was able to accomplish — especially as a big guy out there banging with the best of them,” the 37-year-old Fisher said. “For him to be able to have done what it took mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically to be prepared to go to work every single day for all those seasons was a big-time example for me. It’s not like I’m chasing any type of number, but I just try to bring the same mentality to work, whether it’s 500 or 1,000.”