NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, April 29 – The two-time reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks booked a second-round Western Conference playoff matchup with impressive road triumphs.
Kobe Bryant on Thursday scored 24 points and Andrew Bynum added 18 points and 12 rebounds to power the Lakers past New Orleans 98-80 while Dirk Nowitzki scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Dallas past Portland 103-96.
Spanish star Pau Gasol contributed 16 points for the Lakers while reserve Lamar Odom added 14 as the defending champions, who lost game one at home, eliminated the Hornets four games to two in their best-of-seven series.
"The size and depth of our team wore them down in the end," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It took us a little time to figure out this team."
The Lakers will open round two at home Monday against the Mavericks while Oklahoma City will meet either top seed San Antonio or bottom seed Memphis in the other West second-round series.
Memphis has a chance to eliminate the Spurs at home in game six on Friday.
At Portland, the Mavericks won a road playoff game for the first time since the opening round in 2009 and snapped a run of 18 losses in their past 20 road games after the Trail Blazers pulled within one point in the closing minutes.
"We talked about how this was our night," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We kept our head down. It was tough. We didn’t give up. Guys just kept going. It was a solid effort.
"We couldn’t win a road game last year. This year we finally got one and we’re moving on."
German star Nowitzki scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, eight on free throws in the final seconds to keep Portland at bay as Dallas won the series four games to two.
Jason Terry added 22 points off the bench while Shawn Marion added 16 for Dallas. Gerald Wallace led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and 12 rebounds.
After New Orleans won the opener at Los Angeles, the Lakers’ bid for a third consecutive NBA crown looked to be on the rocks, but they battled back to take four of the next five games to advance.
"We’re good at making adjustments and learning, so the more a series goes on the more we learn," Bryant said. "That comes from our coaching staff (and) that comes from us and the amount of experience we have, being able to pick teams apart the later we go in a series."
Los Angeles outscored the Hornets 21-4 in second-chance points, those that come after a missed shot and offensive rebound. Bynum’s seven-foot frame filling the zone was more than the Hornets could handle in grabbing missed shots.
"Every time he got an offensive rebound, it was deflating," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "You don’t really realize how good he is until you face him in a series.
"Kobe is Kobe, but I thought Bynum decided the series. He played great."
The Lakers, who went 25-of-26 from the free throw line, stepped up defensively to keep Hornets star Chris Paul to only 10 points, even though he managed 11 assists in a losing cause.
"We just lost to a really, really good team," Paul said. "It’s obvious why they are the two-time defending champs. They did a really good job of closing the lane down."
Carl Landry led New Orleans with 19 points, while Trevor Ariza added 12 points and Marco Belinelli scored 11 for the Hornets.