DENVER, Feb. 25 (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers once again broke the hearts of the Denver Nuggets. This time, they may have had some help from the referees.

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Kareem Rush sank a wide-open 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to lift the Lakers to their fifth straight victory, 112-111 over the Nuggets.

"I haven't been in that position since college," Rush said. "The shot was there and I took it with confidence. I was getting my mind-set that the opportunity might come because these guys might be doubled."

The Nuggets blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and have lost four straight for the first time this season. But it took a controversial call.

With two seconds on the shot clock, Denver's Andre Miller put up a shot that clearly hit the underside of the rim. Rookie Carmelo Anthony appeared to grab the rebound, but a whistle blew indicating a shot-clock violation.

The referees ruled it an inadvertent whistle, and Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal won the ensuing jump ball with 27 seconds left. Luke Walton penetrated and passed to Rush, who gave the Lakers their first lead since late in the first quarter.

"That was an interesting finish," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "Even I was confused on that last whistle. We thought it was a 24-second violation. We still haven't gotten a definition of it; the shot missed the basket."

"Call the ATF because they robbed us tonight," Anthony said. "We played so hard. I had it in my hand before they blew the whistle. There really isn't anything we can do about it now."

Miller's half-court shot as time expired caromed off the rim, and Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik was beside himself as the players left the court, looking for anyone to complain to.

Denver led 100-87 with seven minutes to play, but Gary Payton's four points keyed an 11-0 run over the next two minutes to pull the Lakers within two points.

"The most important thing we do now is what we do next," Bzdelik said. "Successful people only dwell on the negative for a short time."

The finish overshadowed a great duel between Anthony and Kobe Bryant, who led their teams with 35 points apiece. Bryant's game winner on Dec. 19 sank the Nuggets 101-99.

"I finally put Kobe on Carmelo because he was trashing everyone tonight," Jackson said.

"We did steal one, but we deserved the win," Bryant said.

O'Neal added 16 points for the Lakers, who have won seven of eight games heading into Thursday's showdown with Sacramento.