NBA Playoffs: Rampaging Bulls Advance; Lakers Dominate Hornets

Luol_DengThe Chicago Bulls closed out their first-round series with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday with an emphatic 116-89 victory to advance to the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

Unlike in their three previous wins in the series, the top-seeded Bulls finally played true to form, dominating the hapless Pacers from the opening tip en route to the 4-1 series win. Derrick Rose scored 25 points, including 10 in the final half of the third quarter that all but ended the Pacers’ hopes of bringing the series back to Indiana. Luol Deng had a brilliant all-around game with 24 points, 7 assists,  6 rebounds, and 3 steals to help Chicago avoid a third-straight first-round playoff exit.

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant shook off a sprained left ankle to score 19 points and lead the Lakers to a 106-90 mauling of the New Orleans Hornets. Bryant, who left on crutches after the Lakers’ Game 4 loss in New Orleans a couple of days ago, erased any doubts about his health in the second quarter when he soared for a right-handed jam over Hornets bigman Emeka Okafor. That dunk served as a wake up call for the Lakers, who went on to dominate the Hornets the rest of the way after trailing 23-32 at the end of the first period. Los Angeles now leads the series 3-2 and can clinch a second-round berth with a win in New Orleans on Thursday.

In the other playoff game Thursday, the Orlando Magic stayed alive by routing the Atlanta Hawks, 101-76. Atlanta still leads the series 3-2.