LOS ANGELES, April 19 – Kobe Bryant scored 21 points and Pau Gasol added 19 as the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers defeated Oklahoma City 87-79 on Sunday in their NBA Western Conference playoff opener.Andrew Bynum, who missed the Lakers’ last 13 regular season games with a left Achilles’ tendon injury, scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who built an early 17-point edge powered by Bynum dunks and blocks.
"We grinded it out," Bryant said. "It wasn’t pretty but we will take it."
In another Western Conference game, Dirk Nowitzki scored 36 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 100-94 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
It was one of three West games Sunday. In the late game Portland is at Phoenix.
The Lakers kept NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant to 24 points on 7-of-24 shooting from the field in his NBA playoff debut while Russell Westbrook added 23 points for the Thunder.
"We were trying to take away (Durant’s) easy baskets," Bryant said. "We had to work harder as a team to make sure his didn’t get easy touches."
The Thunder, whose roster is the NBA’s youngest, will have a chance to level the best-of-seven series in game two at Los Angeles on Tuesday. This is the team’s first playoff appearance since relocating from Seattle.
In later Western Conference playoff openers Sunday, San Antonio will visit Dallas and Portland travels to Phoenix.