Result: Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets 106-90
What that means: LA take a 3-2 lead in the series.
How it happened: A sprained ankle is a minor impediment to Kobe Bryant at this point in his playoff career. Emeka Okafor is a much larger obstacle.
Bryant overcame them both on a dunk that propelled the Los Angeles Lakers to a wave of momentum toward the second round.
Bryant scored 19 points on a sprained left ankle, throwing down two impressive jams that led the Lakers past the New Orleans Hornets 106-90 in Game 5 on Tuesday night and to a 3-2 series lead.
Bryant’s second-quarter dunk on Okafor could turn out to be the Lakers’ signature moment of a taxing first-round series that began with a stunning Game 1 loss. That’s exactly what Bryant was trying to achieve when he picked up his dribble with two hands and threw down a right-handed slam right in Okafor’s mug.
“I just had a lane to the basket,” Bryant said.
“It looked like he was going to challenge me at the rim, and I decided to accept the challenge. … It’s a message for us that this was important. It’s time to raise up and do what we’ve got to do. They’re not saved dunks. I don’t have much of those left.”
Bryant left New Orleans on crutches two days earlier after getting hurt late in Game 4, but he refused an MRI exam or extensive treatment when he got home. Postseason injuries are nothing new for the two-time NBA finals MVP, who has persevered through a slew of them during 67 playoff games in the previous three years.
“That’s what he does,” said Monty Williams, the Hornets’ frustrated coach. “All this talk about his ankle. Did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then.”
Trevor Ariza scored 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 21, and Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who have lost three of four since their series-opening victory. Ariza hit five 3-pointers, but managed just six points in the second half as the Lakers took control of the game and perhaps the series.
Game 6 is tomorrow in New Orleans.
Here’s that Kobe dunk on Emeka Okafor by the way. File under BOOM!
Result: Bulls beat Pacers 116-89
What that means: Chicago wins the series 4-1
How it happened: Sitting on the bench with four fouls and his team struggling, Derrick Rose pleaded with his coach to put him back in the game.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau took the risk and his All-Star guard responded, lifting the Bulls to the second round.
Rose scored 25 points, Luol Deng added 24 and Chicago finally played like a top seed, knocking off the Indiana Pacers 116-89 in Game 5 to wrap up their first-round playoff series last night.
The top-seeded Bulls can breathe a little easier after getting a dominant performance by their MVP candidate and an emphatic win that came on the heels of four dramatic games.
They can also turn their attention to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they’ll meet Atlanta or Orlando.
“Speechless right now,” Rose said.
“I really can’t believe it. It’s a great accomplishment. I’m happy for my teammates, happy for my coaching staff. They did a really great job.”
The series win is another big step for a rebuilt team that leaped into the championship picture, igniting the fan base in a way not seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were leading the way.
How they got here is well documented:
- The firing of coach Vinny Del Negro and hiring of Tom Thibodeau after back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round exits;
- The roster overhaul that brought in Boozer and a deep rotation after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined in Miami;
- The continued climb of Rose from Rookie of the Year to All-Star to possible MVP.
Where they go from here remains to be seen. This much is certain, though. Anything less than a deep run would be a disappointment, and the Bulls can exhale for now.
Result: Orlando beat the Hawks 101-76
What that means: Magic survive but Atlanta lead 3-2
How it happened: The Orlando Magic aren’t ready for their season to end just yet.
Facing their first opening round postseason exit since 2007, the Magic blew out the Atlanta Hawks 101-76 last night.
Jason Richardson scored 17 points and JJ Redick added 14 off the bench to lead the Magic.
The win trims Atlanta’s series’ lead to 3-2 and keeps alive the Magic’s hopes of becoming the ninth team in NBA history to win a playoff series after trailing 3-1. If they can win Game 6 tomorrow night in Atlanta, they would host a decisive Game 7 on Saturday.
Magic center Dwight Howard battled foul trouble throughout the night and had just one field goal, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds. Orlando didn’t need his offense, though, as it broke out of a series-long shooting funk with 11 3-pointers.
“We’re a good shooting team,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “This is more of us than what we showed in the first four games…This isn’t an aberration. We’ve been doing this for four years. The first four games were the aberration.”
Josh Smith scored 22 points to lead Atlanta, which shot below 40% for just the second time this series.
The Magic cruised in the second half, allowing Howard to log his first extended rest of the series in the fourth quarter as their lead crept above 30 points.
In a short turnaround following his team’s loss in Game 4, Van Gundy preached patience over panic to his team. It paid off in a big way as Orlando was unselfish in its half court sets and passed the ball to free up its shooters.
That allowed the Magic to push the pace and keep the game up tempo. The Hawks have won every game with the Magic this season in which it kept them under 90 points.
For the second straight game the Magic’s bench got some production led by Redick. It also got 11 points from Ryan Anderson and nine from Gilbert Arenas, who had erupted for 20 in Game 4.
- additional reporting AP