The Nuggets (4-4) played without Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups after coach George Karl gave them the night off, while the Lakers (6-2) were without 7-footers Pau Gasol (strained right hamstring) and Andrew Bynum (strained right shoulder).
Kobe Bryant played only 9:51, all in the first quarter, and scored six points for the Lakers, while Sasha Vujacic had 18 points.
The game was punctuated by eight technical fouls and two flagrant fouls from the replacement officials. The Lakers' Lamar Odom and Denver's Chris Andersen had to be separated after a rebound battle led to a pushing and shoving match in the second quarter.
On Friday night, the NBA's regular referees agreed on a two-year contract to end the lockout.
Five technicals and both flagrant fouls were called in the second quarter, which ended with the Nuggets leading 57-49.
J.R. Smith of the Nuggets had 16 of his 18 points and Kenyon Martin all 12 of his in the first half. Smith had seven assists in a game-high 40 minutes.
Lawson, a 5-foot-11 guard from 2009 NCAA champion North Carolina, scored 16 points in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets pulled out to a 107-86 lead with 5:05 remaining. He was 8 of 12 from the field and 13 of 16 from the free-throw line.
Andersen added 15 points and nine rebounds and Arron Afflalo had 12 points for the Nuggets.
Denver shot 57 percent from the field (45 of 79) while the Lakers hit 45.6 percent (36 of 79).