GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Los Angeles Lakers 18 22 29 29 98
Play by Play New Orleans Hornets 16 18 23 23 80


Bryant, Lakers, close out Hornets in style

By BRETT MARTEL

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Kobe Bryant scored 22 of his 24 points in the first three quarters, then let his Lakers teammates take over in a dominant 98-80 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday night that wrapped up the series for Los Angeles in six games.

Andrew Bynum added 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Pau Gasol chipped in 16 points for the two-time defending champions, who led by as much as 21 in the fourth quarter to provide an anticlimactic ending to what had been a more exciting series than many expected.

Chris Paul, who helped the Hornets split the first four games with two sensational performances, wasn't able to deliver the Hornets a third victory. He had only seven points before hitting a 3-pointer with 4:02 to go and finished with 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Lamar Odom had 14 points for the Lakers, who once again controlled the paint, outrebounding New Orleans 43-30, including 14 offensive rebounds. The Hornets were routinely frustrated by the ability of the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum to prolong possessions by snaring his teammates' missed shots. He had eight offensive rebounds, helping the Lakers finish with a whopping 21-4 advantage in second-chance points.

The Lakers led by double digits throughout the fourth quarter, and Hornets coach Monty Williams finally conceded the game with about a minute to go when he removed the starters, who received an appreciative standing ovation from the sellout crowd in the New Orleans Arena.

The Lakers move on to the second round, facing the winner of the Dallas-Portland series. Game 1 will be Monday at Staples Center.

Carl Landry had 19 points for the Hornets, who have not won a playoff series since the first round in 2008, but who did better than expected after Williams took his first head coaching job last summer with a team that had missed the playoffs last season. Trevor Ariza scored 12 points for New Orleans and Marco Belinelli 11.

After falling behind by as many as 12 points in the middle of the third quarter, New Orleans was as close as 54-48 when Jason Smith hit a jumper. But Bryant and Gasol each hit a pair of free throws to get Los Angeles' lead back to 10, and each time the Hornets tried to claw back after that, the Lakers had an answer.

When Willie Green hit a 3 to make it 60-53, Bryant came right back with a 3 of his own.

Then late in the quarter, Paul lost the ball under his own basket when he bumped into Ron Artest and tumbled over the baseline, hoping to draw a foul. Instead, Artest put in an easy layup and flexed both biceps while the crowd booed the officials in frustration.

The boos continued when Smith fouled Bryant hard on a drive and was called for a flagrant foul. After conspicuously applauding the call, to the annoyance of Hornets fans, Bryant made both free throws, giving the Lakers a 69-57 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Hornets needed a strong start to the fourth quarter and it appeared they might make one more run when Paul promptly found Smith for an open jumper to make it 69-59. Yet the Lakers once again denied the Hornets any momentum, as Odom responded with a 3 and Bynum scored inside on a possession kept alive by an offensive rebound. Odom added two more free throws and Shannon Brown hit a jumper to complete a 9-0 run that made it 78-59 with 8:28 left.

The game was never in doubt after that.

Both teams struggled to score in a scrappy first half, when there were seven ties and the Lakers held only a slim 33-32 lead after Emeka Okafor's short jump hook with 3:11 left in the second quarter.

Shortly after, however, Los Angeles opened its largest lead of the half when Artest slipped free for an easy inside basket and Bryant scored on a fast-break layup, sparking a 7-0 run that made it 40-32, before Paul's jumper - and his first points of the game - made it 40-34 at halftime.

Notes: The Lakers hit 25 of 26 free throws. ... The Hornets are 1-4 in Game 6s, including 1-2 when they are elimination games. ... The Hornets have never won a best-of-seven series that went at least six games. ... The Lakers are 73-29 in best-of-seven series. ... Bryant has scored in double figures in 155 straight playoff games.


Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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8 Consecutive times Kobe Bryant scored at least 30 points in a close out game for the Lakers, an NBA record snapped on this day primarily because LAL's second unit was so great to start the fourth quarter.

11 Times in the last 12 playoff series in which the Lakers have closed out an opponent the first time they had such an opportunity. They did it in all four 2010 playoff series, and 3-of-4 in 2009, the only loss coming in Game 6 against Houston in the Conference Semi's.

12 Rebounds for Andrew Bynum, eight of which came on the offensive end, as the young center dominated the paint at both ends for much of his time on the floor. He added 18 points, two blocks and a steal in a terrific all-around effort.

14 Points off the bench for Lamar Odom, just seven fewer than N.O.'s entire second unit. Odom also pitched in eight boards and four assists in perhaps his best game of the series.

42 Hornets shooting percentage for the game, L.A.'s D playing excellent throughout while setting the tone in a first half N.O. managed just 16 and 18 points in respective quarters. The Lakers forced 14 turnovers, and held Chris Paul to only 10 points with 11 assists.




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Points Bryant 24, 6-16 FG
Rebounds Bynum 12, 4 OFF 8 DEF
Assists Artest 5
Steals Bryant 3
Blocks Bynum, Gasol 2


POSTGAME QUOTES


Lakers Coach Phil Jackson:

(On the win):"The first half we had opportunities, again in the second quarter and kind of gave us a little margin going into halftime. We do well as a team and we try to get ahead. We had a nice run and we got back to six and eight (point lead) and extended it to double digits. We played well tonight and I thought they played as big as they could play. Kobe (Bryant) had a game where he took chances, and he's a risk-taker, and got the attack the rim and took control of the game in the fourth quarter and extended the lead. New Orleans is an impressive team and made some real hard runs. I think the size and depth of our team worn them down at the end."

(On the series): "The series is over, so it's all about the next matchup. That matchup will be about finding a way to dominate a team or take control of the series. It took us some time to figure out this team. Tonight was our best defensive effort."

(On the Lakers toughness compared to past games in the series): "They were dominated by just the physical aggressiveness of New Orleans. They were much more aggressive than we were the first game. It was a consequence that we were struggling playing and they felt they had to finish against Chris Paul. Of course, they played a very physical game against him and they were able to take that first game from us. They started feeling they had to do what they had to do out there on the offensive end and the defensive end and they were much better. Tonight, our second chance points were different than what we would like to see as opposed as to what happened on Sunday."

(On the next series): "Our upcoming series will have our next opponents: Portland or Dallas. Dallas does have matchup size. They are big and (Dirk) Nowitzki is a seven-footer and so is their center, Tyson Chandler. Obviously, (Brendan) Heywood is a seven-footer. So they have size, but these guys (Lakers) have proven their dominance by their size. This is the reason why we are champions."

(On the Lakers defense): "Well, I thought Chris (Paul) was looking to get his team involved a lot. He took two shots in the first half. That was an issue. You look to keep the pace in the game and we were able to extend (the lead) a little bit at halftime. He came back and played much more aggressively in the second half. Things got a lot better as the game went through as playing screen-on defense".






Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant:

(On this series): "We got a chance to really work on our biggest grievance which is screen-and-roll defense. That was a big challenge for us to play and we played our best to work on it."

(On the win): "Well, it's communicating and whether things are working. It helps our morale and develops the right kind of energy that you need to win games. It helps us offensively."

(On the ability to close games on the road): "Well, we need to make adjustments as the series goes on. It comes from our coaching staff and it comes from us and experience that we have had. We were able to put it together."

(On playing Dallas Mavericks or Portland Trailblazers next series): "They are both tough teams. They like to run with us, so we just have to see how it shapes out."

(On closing out games on the road): "It's more enjoyable to do it on the road, because you can take the crowd out of it. It's more intense. It's much more enjoyable to do it in a hostile environment."

(On containing Chris Paul): "He was tired…he was tired. He was all over the place this series; all over the place. Tonight, he looked a little tired, but it was not something he did defensively. We tried to make things tough and we tried to crowd him a bit. That little sucker is tough."







Lakers Guard Derek Fisher
(On the game): "I think we weathered the storm early. We didn't get off to a great start. But we didn't allow the emotion and the energy in the building to get to us early. Even though we didn't play well, we hung right in there. In the third quarter we finally found a little bit of space to get some separation. "

(On getting in their groove): "I think we're definitely a team that's better as things build. We ended the regular season on a Wednesday and the first game of the playoffs is Sunday, and then game two is not until Wednesday. We haven't been a team that plays well when we play one game in a week. We need to play, develop a rhythm and continue to improve through playing. I don't know if it's swagger, or what you want to call it, but I think we are able to find rhythm and improve in a playoff series. That really provides an advantage for us."

(On the win): "I think we smelled an opportunity to end the series. As we've learned over the years, when you have an opportunity to close a team out, you have to figure out a way to bring whatever is necessary to do it while you have the chance. If you allow a team to make it to the next game, then maybe they are the ones who find some magic and they take you out. We smelled an opportunity to finish it out, and I'm glad we were able to do that on their court."






Lakers Forward Ron Artest:
(Defending Chris Paul): "I've played a lot of guys; for years they've been going at me. So, I'm used to getting my ankles broke or someone scoring on me, but I'm still going to recover. I'm used to that. For years I've been guarding the best players. I've seen everything. "

(On getting in their groove): "We've got a lot of talent on this team. Sometimes it's easy to forget that we still have to work hard. Hard work will beat talent any day of the week."







Lakers Guard Steve Blake:
(On their defense): "We just tried to put our bigs behind us and try to push them in the direction that they want us to push them. The bigs were up making it tough for them when they were trying to come off those screens. It helps that our defense was a lot better for us tonight."

(On their next opponent): "We just need to focus on us right now. It's going to be interesting to see how that pans out. It doesn't really matter to us who we play."

(On the game): "I think this game was the best of the six. There were some times when we played better offensively. But overall I think it was the most dominant performance we've had so far."








Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams
(On how he pleased he is with his players for taking the Lakers to Game 6): "Our players exemplified all the good things that sports are about. They didn't give in. They didn't listen to the doubters. They just came to work every day and busted their tails and they believed that they could do more than even they thought. I have been blessed to be around an unbelievable group of guys and their families for a basketball season. We saw the fruit of that tonight. Guys played even though we were out of the game and they played until the last horn sounded. That is how we were able to exceed the expectations. As bad as I feel right now, the joy I feel comes from being around this group and being around good people. It's a long season and the grind, unless you've done it you just have no idea what it is about and it can wear you out if you are around knuckleheads. And I have been around a few groups that can drive you crazy. This group was exceptional."

(On his role as a head coach): "I have a long way to go. I feel like I am going to spend the summer really trying to get better at my craft. I have never been one to settle and I feel like there is so much room for me to improve. Some areas I need to back off of, some areas I need to get better at, and I am not going to spend a lot of time grading myself but I think when you have a good group of guys like we have it's easier for me to coach. When you have a Chris Paul, a David West, an Emeka Okafor, a Trevor Ariza, core guys like that then you add Willie (Green) and Jarrett (Jack) and all the guys that just busted their tails all year long it makes me look better as a coach than I should."

(On the most disappointing thing): "Losing. I could talk about the second chance points, I could talk about not making shots but the bottom line is we lost. Just losing. You're out. Like Coach Malone was saying the back everything comes to a screeching halt in the playoffs when you lose. You pour so much into one game and when it's an elimination game and you lose, it just comes to an abrupt end and you hate to be on this side of it. It's something that we certainly can grow from, get better at it and I believe we've laid the foundation for, Lord willing, many years to come."







Hornets Guard Chris Paul:
(On the game) "They played well. We just lost to a really, really good team. It's obvious why those guys are the two-time defending champs. Those guys made shots and we missed shots. Then we get a bad whistle and it's going to be a long night for us. We couldn't get too much to go our way. In the last three games of the series, seems that bout the first play of the game, Emeka got called for fouls and stuff like that. A team like that is tough to beat. They did a really good job of closing the lane down. I think a lot of the credit goes to Derrick Fisher. I told him after the game that he played unbelievable defense for the entire series. They way he was pressuring … D Fish gets up on one side of you and you can drive by, but then you have the twin towers standing down there in the middle of the lane waiting on you. They use their length to their advantage. I still tried to find my spots, but the lane was packed and D fish was in my pocket all night long. The only way to get guys off of you is to play physical. I tried that early in the game and got an offensive foul, but that's a really good team that we played."




Hornets Guard Jarrett Jack:
On the season: "It was pretty much and up and down season for all of us, as far as health is concerned and the way we played. All in all, you can't be anything but happy with the way we finished. Guys played hard each and every game. I thought the fans did a good job and supported us throughout the season. We gave it everything we had, we just came up short. The fans did a good job of being rowdy and being a hostile environment. They were behind us all season and especially come playoff time. We thank them for their support."

On the playoffs: "I don't know if any of us are pleased by just taking them to a sixth game. We came to win the series, not just to play tough and lose. The effort was there. The fight was there. We just came up short."




Hornets Guard Willie Green: "It's always a tough feeling to lose a game and know the season is over. Hats off to them, they were a better team, tonight. They did a good job of doing what it takes to win. They have a lot of size with Gasol, Bynum, Artest and Odom. They are a good team. To have an opportunity to play here is a privilege. We hung together and stuck together. It's a credit to our organization. Our upper management guys, our coaching staff, they work hard all year long. The guys in this locker room are good character guys. We have a lot to be proud about and we have some things we can build on. The fans did a great job of coming out and supporting us. They were just as pumped up as we were."





Hornets Center Aaron Gray:
(On the season coming to an end) "It's hard right now. There's a lot of hurt in this locker room by guys that didn't want the season to end tonight. As far as this year goes, we made a lot of strides as a team. Being one of the four players left from last year to this year, we've had so many changes in a positive way. The leadership from the top management, the coaching staff, our captains.










LAKERS VS. HORNETS GAME 6 PREVIEW

By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Two transcendent playoff performances by Chris Paul made the Hornets' first-round series with Los Angeles far more interesting than the defending champion Lakers would have preferred.

The question now is whether the Hornets' four-time All-Star can summon another big game back in the Big Easy on Thursday night.

At the very least, Paul welcomes the pressure that comes with a game in which a loss ends the season for his team.

"This is all or nothing for us," Paul said. "I can't wait."

When Paul has been sensational—with his 33-point, 14 assist performance in Game 1 and his triple-double in Game 4—the Hornets have pulled out a pair of hard fought victories. In the series' other three games, when Paul has still been exceptional, but short of dominant, the Lakers have won—including twice by double digits.

Now ahead 3-2 in the series, Los Angeles needs only one more win to dispatch pesky New Orleans. If the Lakers own key statistical categories as thoroughly as they did in their 106-90 Game 5 triumph on Tuesday night, the series isn't likely to make it back to the West Coast for Game 7.

The Lakers restored their dominance inside, outrebounding the Hornets 42-25, which included a 15-3 advantage in offensive rebounds. That led to a whopping 22-2 advantage in second-chance points. Los Angeles also outscored the Hornets 42-30 in the paint.

"We should be able to play like that all the time," Lakers forwardPau Gasol said. "We needed to play physical and control the boards, and use our bodies. … Our energy was good, and that's why we won the way we won."

The Hornets never looked more outmatched in the series, but if that result shook their confidence, they're not letting it show.

"The great thing about it is now we get to go back to our home court with our fans behind us, and we have to bring the energy," Paul said. "It's the elimination game now. We can't leave anything out there."

Paul has said throughout his career that he never wants to come out and would gladly play 48 minutes if coaches would let him. Such an approach might have served the Hornets well in Game 5.

The Hornets led by nine when Paul went to the bench to rest in the beginning of the second quarter. The Lakers immediately went on a 10-0 run and the momentum seemed to change for good.

Hornets coach Monty Williams said Paul's teammates could have helped him by showing more toughness on defense and fouling hard, the way Lakers star Kobe Bryant did when he thwarted a layup attempt byEmeka Okafor with a forearm across the Hornets center's head.

"At some point, you have to know how to make a playoff foul," Williams said. The coach then referred to the lack of resistance Bryant met on his thunderous driving dunk in the second quarter, which seemed to energize his team. "We have to learn how to not allow him to get that play off."

Williams believes the Lakers have been allowed to get away with too much banging inside. He even made a formal protest to the NBA about it after Game 3.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn't seem quite sure what to make of his team being portrayed as the one that hits hardest.

"It was pretty interesting. We're not usually known for that," Jackson said. "We're known as being soft, but sometimes desperation can activate" toughness.

Jackson added that he fully expected the Hornets to respond to their coach's call for more aggression.

"The game will be feisty, no doubt about it," Jackson said. "The team that beats the other team to loose balls is going to win the game."

Bryant, meanwhile, continues to receive treatment for an injury to his left ankle and foot that occurred late in the Hornets Game 4 win. Of course, the Hornets realized by the second quarter of Game 5 that they better not count on the injury slowing the Lakers' superstar down. Although he played less than 29 minutes in Game 5, he was 8 of 13 shooting for 19 points and showed little lack of explosion on a pair of soaring one-handed jams.

Jackson said Bryant was sore on Wednesday, but added that he did not expect to limit Bryant's playing time at all on Thursday night.

"This is a game in which we go all-out to win," Jackson said. "If it's 40 minutes, we will" play Bryant that long.



Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited




Lakers Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle) is day-to-day.
Matt Barnes (sore right knee) is probable.
Andrew Bynum (bone bruise, right knee) is probable.
Devin Ebanks (stress fracture, left tibia) is out.

David West (torn ACL, left knee) is out.



Game 1: 4/17 - NOH @ LAL L 109-100
Game 2: 4/20 -
NOH @ LAL W 87-78
Game 3: 4/22 -
LAL @ NOH W 100-86
Game 4: 4/24 -
LAL @ NOH L 93-88
Game 5: 4/26 -
NOH @ LAL W 106- 90
Game 6: 4/28 -
LAL @ NOH
Game 7: 4/20 -
NOH @ LAL*
* if necessary

Regular Season:
12/29
- LAL @ NOH W 103-88
01/07 - NOH @ LAL W 101-98
02/05 - LAL @ NOH W 101-95
03/27 - NOH @ LAL W 102-84


At this point we have played the New Orleans Hornets nine times this season. There are no more surprises. Individual player tendencies have been recognized and challenged. The strengths and weaknesses of both teams are out in the open. Because of this, game 6 will largely come down to the effort and energy areas of the game. We won the rebound battle in game 5 by a margin of 17 (42-25). This led directly to the discrepancy in 2nd chance points. We dominated that category 22-2 (off of our 15 offensive rebounds). This has been an area of focus throughout the series and we know that New Orleans Coach Monty Williams will spend the time between game 5 and game 6 reminding his team of their need to improve their effort on the boards. They will be counting on their home crowd to give them an added bump in energy and so the question will be can we maintain our edge in this vital category. The bottom line is we must if we want to try and close out this series on the road and avoid a game 7.

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GAME NOTES

SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers swept their season series with New Orleans 4-0 after taking last season's series from the Hornets 2-1. The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games against the Hornets and have won seven of their last eight overall. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 homes games against the Hornets and are 14-4 all-time against the Hornets at STAPLES Center. Since the Hornets move to New Orleans from Charlotte prior to the 2002-03 season, the Lakers have gone 9-3 at New Orleans Arena while going 0-2 at Ford Center in Oklahoma City during their temporary relocation from 2005-07. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 23-9 against the Hornets. In 2006, the Lakers and Hornets took part in the city of New Orleans first professional sports game following Hurricane Katrina when they met at the New Orleans Arena March 8, 2006. The Lakers won that contest 113-107 behind 40 points from Kobe Bryant. In 2006-07, Bryant scored a series record 50 points 3/23/07, becoming just the second player in NBA history to score 50+ points in four consecutive games. In 2007-08 (11/6/07), Peja Stojakovic made a Lakers opponent record 10 three-point field goals while Chris Paul became only the 7th Lakers opponent to record at least 21 assists in a game and the first since John Stockton did so in April of 1990. In a January 6, 2009 loss to New Orleans, David West scored a series-high 40 points for the Hornets, surpassing Baron Davis' mark of 37 established when the team was in Charlotte in 2002. Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons spent the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons as an assistant coach in New Orleans. Hornets forward Trevor Ariza played 106 regular season games with Los Angeles from 2007-09, averaging 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.54 steals during his Lakers career while helping the team to the 2009 NBA Championship. Additionally, Hornets center DJ Mbenga played three seasons with the Lakers from 2007-10, averaged 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds and was a member of two championship Lakers teams (2009, 2010). The Lakers and Hornets have never met in the playoffs prior to this year. This is the Hornets 3rd appearance as a Western Conference team (2008, 2009, 2011) and 12th overall.

CLOSING IT OUT
Tied 3-3 with Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals, the Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 in Game 7, earning their 16th NBA Championship. With the victory, the Lakers closed out their fourth opponent on the first try of the 2010 Playoffs, previously taking Game 6 of the First Round 95-94 at Oklahoma City, Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals 111-96 at Utah and Game 6 of the Conference Finals 111-103 at Phoenix. With their series win over Boston, the Lakers closed out an opponent on the FIRST attempt for the 10th time in their last 11 opportunities. In 2009, the Lakers closed out the Jazz, Nuggets and the Magic on the FIRST opportunity but needed two attempts to eliminate the Rockets from the Conference Semifinals. The Lakers Game 6 loss at Houston was just the 3rd time since 2001 that they have failed to close out an opponent when first given the chance (5/14/09 @ HOU, 5/2/06 @ PHX, 5/29/04 @ MIN). The Lakers have closed out an opponent on the FIRST try 21 times in their last 24 opportunities dating back to 2001. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers have closed out their opponent on the first attempt 21 times in 28 overall opportunities.
Overall, under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 27-11 in close-out games. The Lakers have won 32 of their last 33 series when holding the opportunity to close- out at any point. Their last series loss when having a close-out game came in 2006 when the Lakers squandered a 3-1 series lead against the Phoenix Suns. Prior to that, the Lakers had not lost a series when having a close-out game since the 1993 First Round vs. Phoenix in which they led 2-0 before losing the next three.

BRYANT CLUTCH ON THE ROAD IN CLOSE-OUT GAMES
With 37 points in Game 6 of the 2010 Conference Finals 5/29 at Phoenix, Kobe Bryant recorded 30+ points for the 8th consecutive time in a road game in which the Lakers have had the opportunity to close a series out. His string of eight straight such games is an NBA record, with Elgin Baylor (6), Michael Jordan (5) and Oscar Robertson (4) next on the list. Bryant's streak began with 31 points (12-24 FG) 4/28/08 @ DEN and continued with 34 points (9-19 FG) 5/16/08 @ UTAH, 32 points (11-27 FG) 5/14/09 @ HOU, 35 points (12-20 FG) 5/29/09 @ DEN, 30 points (10-23 FG) 6/14/09 @ ORL, 32 points (12-25 FG) 4/30/10 @ OKC and 32 points (11-23 FG) 5/10/10 @ UTAH.*

JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT WHEN PLAYING FROM AHEAD
When Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any playoff series, best-of-five or best-of-seven, his teams are 48-0, having gone 24-0 with Chicago and 24-0 with the Lakers. When Jackson-led teams open a series with a 2-0 lead, he is 36-0 all-time. And when holding a series lead of any kind, Jackson's teams are 54-1 all-time.






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