NBA: Lakers' inside duo overpower Thunder 87-79
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES — Pau Gasol scored 19 points, Andrew Bynum added 13 and the Los Angeles Lakers used their twin 7-footers to dominate inside against the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning 87-79 today in the opener of their playoff series.
Kobe Bryant added 21 points on 6 of 19 shooting after missing four of the final five regular season games to rest his swollen right knee and broken right index finger.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 24 points — under the 30.1 average of the NBA's youngest-ever scoring champion. Former UCLA star Russell Westbrook added 23.
Bynum returned from a 13-game absence because of a strained right Achilles' tendon, teaming with Gasol to pull down a combined 25 rebounds and deny the Thunder key second-chance baskets.
Game 2 in the best-of-7 series is Tuesday at Staples Center.
History is on the Lakers' side against the NBA's youngest team, with an average age of 25 years and 42 days. When coach Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any series, his teams are 45-0. That includes a 24-0 mark with Chicago and 23-0 with the Lakers.
The Lakers came out blazing against the overwhelmed Thunder, pounding the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol while shooting 54 percent and taking a 27-13 lead in the first quarter.
In the playoffs for the first time since moving from Seattle two years ago, the Thunder shot 26 percent, leading to their fewest points in an opening period all season.
Oklahoma City settled down the rest of the way, but never got closer than six points against the defending champions, who are seeking a third straight trip to the NBA finals.
With Bryant, Gasol, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest on the bench to start the fourth, Jordan Farmar scored the Lakers' first five points despite a strained left hamstring to stretch a six-point lead to 11.
Bryant and Lamar Odom hit consecutive 3-pointers, extending the lead the Lakers held the entire game to 77-66.
A pair of free throws by Durant got the Thunder to 79-73 with 3½ minutes remaining. They never got anytcloser. Fisher hit a 3-pointer that pushed the Lakers' lead to 84-74 before Bryant picked up his fifth foul.
Westbrook carried the Thunder early in the third, and Durant scored their final five points to leave them trailing 64-56 going into the final 12 minutes. Fisher, Artest and Odom were in foul trouble and Bryant scored a single point on a free throw as they played to a draw in the third.
The Thunder outscored the Lakers 26-20 in the second quarter, when Los Angeles got away from the inside game of Bynum and Gasol and settled for jump shots instead. Their 17-point lead dwindled to 47-39 at the break.
Westbrook scored the Thunder's final eight points of the half and their first two of the third, drawing them within six.