NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol exploded for 23 of Los Angeles’ 29 points in the third quarter to guide the two-time defending NBA champions to a 98-80 victory that clinched their Western Conference series against the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday.
The Lakers were joined in the second round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, who held off the Orlando Magic 84-81 to clinch their Eastern Conference series 4-2.
Los Angeles held a slim 40-34 lead following a low scoring first half, but Bryant and Gasol took the game by the scruff of the neck to post a 12-point lead by the start of the fourth quarter, which they built on despite resting most of their starters.
Bryant led the Lakers with 24 points in just 30 minutes. Andrew Bynum scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and Gasol scored 16 points.
Hornets’ guard Chris Paul was held to just one field goal in the first half and 10 points in total in the game, though he did make 11 assists. Carl Landry led the Hornets with 19 points and Trevor Ariza added 12 points.
In Atlanta, the Magic trailed by seven points going into the fourth quarter and as many as 12 during the period, but went on a 15-6 run over a seven-minute stretch to pull within one point with 34 seconds remaining.
Jamal Crawford sank two free throws with eight seconds left to push the Hawks lead back up to three points.
In the closing seconds J.J. Redick missed an open three point attempt and Josh Smith blocked another three point attempt by Orlando as the horn sounded.
Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario; Editing by Greg Stutchbury