Denver won its fourth straight game, two short of its longest such streak of the season. Sacramento lost its fourth in a row on the day Coach Keith Smart had his contract extended through the 2012-13 season.
The Nuggets were able to make it into the extra period only because Arron Afflalo made three free throws in the final second after being fouled by Marcus Thornton attempting a 3-pointer.
Tyreke Evans brought the Kings within a point in overtime by making a layup with 25 seconds to go and Sacramento chose to play defense for the duration of the shot clock rather than quickly foul.
That strategy failed when Lawson made his jumper. Francisco Garcia then misfired on a 3-pointer that would have forced a second overtime.
Afflalo led the Nuggets with 32 points while Kenneth Faried added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Sacramento got 27 points from both Evans and Thornton.
Megyn Kelly: Santa Claus and Jesus are both white men
Wisconsin business offering 'therapeutic cuddling' forced to close