Lakers even playoff series, beat Hornets

The Associated Press /

Published Apr 21, 2011 at 05:00AM

LOS ANGELES — Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Lamar Odom scored 16 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers survived poor games from their two biggest stars to even their first-round playoff series with an 87-78 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Ron Artest added 15 points as the two-time defending champions rebounded from a stunning nine-point loss in the series opener with an improved defensive effort against Chris Paul, who still had 20 points and nine assists after shredding Los Angeles’ defense in Game 1.

With Odom’s outstanding performance leading strong bench play, the Lakers overcame the struggles of All-Stars Kobe Bryant, who managed just 11 points, and Pau Gasol, who had eight.

Game 3 is Friday night in New Orleans.

Trevor Ariza scored 22 points for the Hornets, who committed 16 turnovers after making just three in Game 1.

The second-seeded Lakers nursed a small lead throughout the second half largely thanks to Odom, who was in top form in his first game since winning the NBA’s Sixth Man award on Tuesday. After Bynum scored 12 points in the first half, Odom drove the Lakers’ offense down the stretch.

But the seventh-seeded Hornets finally resembled a team missing top scorer David West, struggling for consistent offense for much of the game in front of an energized Staples Center crowd. Carl Landry scored 12 points, and Emeka Okafor had seven points while battling constant foul trouble that forced backup center Aaron Gray to play 23 minutes despite a sprained right ankle.

Bryant apparently concentrated most of his efforts on containing Paul, managing just one field goal in the first half and only reaching double figures on a dramatic dunk with 3:39 to play. Gasol foundered for the second straight game against the smallish Hornets, making just two of 10 shots.

The Lakers spent the past two days scheming ways to prevent Paul’s 33-point, 14-assist dissection of their defense in Game 1. They alternated several defenders on Paul from the opening tip, but Bryant’s snarling full-court pressure made the biggest impression.

The Lakers didn’t exactly stop the four-time All-Star, who had nine points and five assists in the first half, yet they managed to limit his effectiveness on the pick-and-roll plays that hurt them in the opener.

Los Angeles got little offense from Bryant and Gasol early, but Bynum was remarkably active on both ends, scoring 12 points in the first half despite his sore right knee.

The Lakers also got a boost during a 14-2 second-quarter run from a bench that barely impacted Game 1, with backup point guard Steve Blake returning from a weeklong bout of chicken pox to rack up five assists in 6 minutes.

After New Orleans committed an NBA playoff record-low three turnovers in Game 1, the Hornets had that many in the first quarter alone, and 10 by halftime. No longer playing a near-perfect game, the Hornets relied on balanced scoring to keep pace, trailing 47-41 at halftime after Paul’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Paul hit another buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, trimming the Lakers’ lead to seven points even though New Orleans managed just 15 points in the period.

Also on Wednesday:

Thunder 106

Nuggets 89

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant scored 23 points, Russell Westbrook added 21 and Oklahoma City built a huge first-half lead on its way to a victory over Denver. The first-round playoff series shifts to Denver on Saturday night with Oklahoma City leading 2-0. The Thunder relied heavily on their All-Star duo in Game 1, getting a combined 72 points from Durant and Westbrook. But they got contributions from everyone to build a 26-point lead early in the second quarter.

Spurs 93

Grizzlies 87

SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili scored 17 points in the All-Star’s return after missing Game 1 with an elbow sprain, and San Antonio beat Memphis to even the first-round series. Ginobili wore a thick sleeve to protect his right elbow but played as physically reckless as usual. Sam Young had 17 points for the Grizzlies, who opened the series with their first franchise playoff win.

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