LOS ANGELES, Nov. 2 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant may have seen his new man in the middle emerge.

Chris Mihm had a career-high 23 points with 12 rebounds while Bryant scored 25 points to lead the revamped Los Angeles Lakers to a 89-78 victory over the Denver Nuggets in the season opener for both teams.

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One of the acquisitions in the trade of Gary Payton to Boston, Mihm is one of the handful of big men being asked to help fill the void created by the trade of superstar center Shaquille O'Neal to Miami.

The 7-footer jump-started Los Angeles in his debut with nine points in the first six minutes and 19 in the first half, helping the Lakers to a 50-31 lead.

Despite shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor, Bryant made 14-of-15 free throws and got his teammates involved with seven assists. The new main man in Los Angeles also made his presence felt on the defensive end with three blocked shots.

The Lakers never trailed, stretching their lead to as many as 23 points early in the third period.

Denver shot poorly in the first half, making just 11-of-44 shots. The Nuggets scored only four fast-break points after leading the NBA with just under 20 a game last season.

The Nuggets cut the deficit to 58-48 with 5:24 left in the third quarter with a 17-4 run fueled by Voshon Lenard, who scored seven of his 13 points during the run. Less than a minute later, Lenard tore his left Achilles tendon, likely ending his season.

Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and Kenyon Martin added 13 and seven rebounds in his first game with Denver. Marcus Camby grabbed 16 rebounds for the Nuggets.