Kobe Bryant plays in Game 6

DENVER -- Kobe Bryant didn't let a stomach bug stop him from playing in Thursday's Game 6 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets, but he might have stayed in bed if he had known what the Nuggets had in store for him.

Denver destroyed the Lakers 113-96 at the Pepsi Center, evening their first-round series at 3-all and setting up a Game 7 on Saturday at Staples Center.

Bryant did all he could, scoring a team-high 31 points on 13-for-23 shooting in 37 minutes, but his effort barely made a dent in the final score, as he checked out with 7:52 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers trailing by 28 points.

"It was tough," Bryant told reporters after the game. "I was just tired, just drained. You just got to try to push through it as much as possible and just play hard, just leave it all out there and get plenty of rest after the game."

Bryant received two bags of intravenous fluids before the game and an additional two at halftime, according to Lakers team spokesman John Black.

The 16-year veteran missed shootaround Thursday morning because of his gastroenteritis and spent the day "sick as a dog," according to a team source. Bryant's stomach symptoms included pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

"My room resembled a scene from 'The Exorcist,' " said Bryant, who added that he didn't know how he came down with the illness.

It was a similar result to the last playoff game Bryant played while battling a stomach flu, 10 years ago in Game 2 of the 2002 Western Conference finals. Bryant performed admirably in that game, scoring 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting, but the Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings 96-90.

Lakers coach Mike Brown was pointed in his criticism of the efforts of Pau Gasol (three points on 1-for-10 shooting and three rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (11 points on 4-for-11 shooting and 16 rebounds).

"We just got to get more from our second- and third-best player which is our two bigs," Brown said. "Our two bigs have to give us more. ... They got to help in a lot of ways that right now they're not. So, from the standpoint of watching Kobe being dehydrated and doing all that other stuff and him trying to stay with it and then not feeling the production that I think that we need from our second- and third-best player, it's tough. It's tough to watch."

When Bryant was asked whether his teammates matched his heart in Thursday's game, he replied: "No. Of course they didn't."

Bryant said he spoke with Gasol after the game and planned to speak with Bynum to ensure they have the proper focus heading into a winner-take-all Game 7.

"It's one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position where you have no other option but to perform," Bryant said. "You have to emotionally put yourself with your back against the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there's no other option but to perform and to battle. When you have that, when you put yourself in that mind state, then your performance shines through. Your talent shines through, and it doesn't matter what the defense does, it doesn't matter if you get fouled. It doesn't matter because you're emotionally at a level that's above that. That's the mind state that they have to put themselves in."

On the positive side, the Lakers will have Metta World Peace back Saturday, as Game 6 marked the last game of his seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head.

"I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he's known for," Bryant said. "He's the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with that sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I'm looking forward to having that by my side again."