NEW ORLEANS --- 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 in Los Angeles.
Carl Landry had 19 points for the Hornets, who have not won a playoff series since the first round in 2008. Trevor Ariza added 12 points for New Orleans.