The Los Angeles Lakers cruised into the second round of the NBA playoffs on Monday while the Denver Nuggets moved a big step closer to joining them with a record-equaling thrashing of the New Orleans Hornets.
The Western Conference champion Lakers utilized Kobe Bryant’s 31-point effort to beat the Utah Jazz 107-96 and claim their Western Conference quarter-final series 4-1.
However, it was the Nuggets who put on the most remarkable display of the day by earning a spot in the record books with a 121-63 rout of the Hornets in New Orleans. Not since the Minneapolis Lakers defeated the St Louis Hawks 133-75 in 1956 has an NBA team won a post-season game by a 58-point margin.
“I must say I have never been a part of a game quiet like this in the playoffs,” Chauncey Billups told reporters after scoring 17 points to help Western Conference second seeds take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
In Monday’s other game, the Atlanta Hawks beat the Miami Heat 81-71 to tie up their Eastern Conference series at 2-2.
In Los Angeles, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol provided strong support for Bryant as the Lakers strolled into the second round.
Odom delivered 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Spanish forward Gasol had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“We played well offensively but we played spotty defense tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We broke the game open but we didn’t close the door.”
The Lakers had a 21-point lead cut to six points by Utah in the fourth quarter. Paul Millsap came off the bench to lead the rally with 16 points.
In New Orleans, the Nuggets went on a scoring spree while holding Hornets top scorer Chris Paul to just four points.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team play defense like that,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Denver had a 36-15 lead after the first quarter and was in front 61-39 at the half. Seven Nuggets, including Carmelo Anthony with 26 points, wound up in double figures.
“That’s the worst game I’ve seen us play in the five years I’ve been here,” Hornets coach Byron Scott told reporters.
Game five will be played in Denver on today.
In Miami, Atlanta recorded its first road playoff win in 12 years.
The Hawks had not won away from home in the postseason since defeating Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls on May 8, 1997.
Mike Bibby led the way with 15 points and Georgian backup center Zaza Pachulia provided a career playoff-high 18 rebounds and 12 points.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade scored 22 points, making only nine of 26 field-goal attempts as he suffered from back spasms.
Game five is in Atlanta today.