Bryant still hurting

Kobe Bryant said today his sprained left ankle was nothing to worry about, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson contradicted him when he said, “It still affects him a lot. This is not going to go away any time soon. We’re just going to have to … monitor it very closely. I think he’ll have a limited amount of practice time. It’s tender to the touch still. He’s still limping when he walks.” Bryant was hurt in Game 4 of the Lakers’ first-round win over the New Olreans Hornets on April 24. He played without complaint in the next two games.

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Keys to beating the Mavs

The Lakers will be favored to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in their second-round series. Here’s how they could (should) win and advance to the next round:

1. Own the paint. The Mavericks are bigger and stronger than the undersized New Orleans Hornets, but not necessarily in the paint. Tyson Chandler, a 7-foot center, plays on the low post, but Dirk Nowitzki, another 7-footer, plays on the perimeter. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol could (should) be unstoppable for the second consecutive series.

2. Win the second unit battle. The Mavericks might have more depth than the Lakers at more positions, especially if Jason Terry starts hitting shots. The object of the game is to keep the contest close whenever the subs are on the floor. Keep the Dallas backups from making game-changing plays. It could prove to be a tough matchup, though.

3. Exploit this mismatch. The Mavs’ guards are smallish. They don’t have anybody who can line up with Kobe Bryant and it’s something the Lakers must remember. It might be different if Caron Butler was healthy but he’s not going to play in the series after injuring his knee Jan. 1 and undergoing surgery. Bryant, as ever, must be the Lakers’ go-to guy.

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Round 2 schedule

Here’s the schedule for the Lakers’ second round series:

Game 1: Mon May 2, Dallas at Lakers, 7:30, TNT.
Game 2: Wed May 4, Dallas at Lakers, 7:30, TNT.
Game 3: Fri May 6, Lakers at Dallas, 6:30, ESPN.
Game 4: Sun May 8, Lakers at Dallas, 12:30, Channel 7.
Game 5 (if necessary): Tue May 10, Dallas at Lakers, TBD, TNT.
Game 6 (if necessary): Thu May 12, Lakers at Dallas, TBD, ESPN.
Game 7 (if necessary): Sun May 15, Dallas at Lakers, 12:30, Channel 7.

All times Pacific

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Lakers 98, Hornets 80

NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers advanced to the second round with a comprehensive victory over the New Orleans Hornets tonight in Game 5. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points and made 10 of 10 from the line. Andrew Bynum scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. The Lakers broke open the game with a 19-6 run that gave them an 84-63 lead in the fourth quarter. They led most of the way and were never challenged late. The Lakers even made Chris Paul seem human, holding him to 10 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.

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Half: Lakers 40, Hornets 34

NEW ORLEANS — Was this the Lakers’ best defensive half of the series tonight in Game 6? Or were the New Orleans Hornets simply shooting bricks? The Hornets did miss a good many open shots in the first half, shooting only 41.2 percent (14 of 34). the Lakers were a little more efficient with the ball, especially when they put it into the hands of Andrew Bynum, who scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the half. Kobe Bryant had nine points despite tweaking his sprained left ankle in the first quarter. Chris Paul was very quiet in the first half for the Hornets, scoring two points on 1-for-2 shooting and adding four assists.

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Jackson on Kobe: “He’s still not 100 percent”

NEW ORLEANS — Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after today’s shootaround that Kobe Bryant was still limited by a sprained left ankle. “He’s still a guy who’s not 100 percent,” Jackson said hours before the Lakers looked to close out the New Orleans Hornets in Game 6 of their first-round series. “I just think it’s a matter of where is his physical ability with the ankle. It’s not about whether he plays 28 minutes or 38 minutes. That, obviously, it going to put a little more stress on the ankle. I think he can play 40 minutes if he has to.”

Bryant was seated nearby as Jackson spoke, but declined to talk to reporters. He was hurt in the final moments of the Lakers’ loss Sunday to the Hornets in Game 4. He scored a team-leading 19 points, including two thunderous dunks, in the Lakers’ victory in Game 5, which gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.

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Lakers 106, Hornets 90

Kobe Bryant scored 19 points, one of six Lakers in double figures tonight as they won Game 5 and took a 3-2 series lead over the New Orleans Hornets. Game 6 is Thursday in New Orleans. Game 7, if necessary, is Saturday at Staples Center. Bryant answered questions about his sprained left ankle when he dunked over Emeka Okafor in the second quarter, part of an 8-2 run that gave the Lakers the lead for good. Andrew Bynum scored 18 points and 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol scored 16, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom each had 13 points and Ron Artest added 11 points. Trevor Ariza had 22 for New Orleans.

Asked what he thought of Bryant’s in the first quarter, coach Phil Jackson said, “Better get him off the floor. He’s a liability. He came back in the second strong as ever and after a misplay on trying to get a foul and a 3-point play by Trevor he was able to get it going.”

Asked what he thought of the Lakers’ play after Bryant’s dunk, Jackson said, “It got the crowd going. It seemed to spark him. You know, he was at a point, ‘That’s enough,” so yeah, I think that was a big statement.”

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Half: Lakers 54, Hornets 51

The New Orleans Hornets played an almost flawless first quarter tonight in Game 5 at Staples Center. The Lakers recovered, thanks in part to a surge from their second unit to start the second quarter, and led by halftime. The Hornets shot 81.3 percent (13 of 16) in the first quarter, but they led by only 32-23. The Lakers’ backups got them back into the game with a 10-0 run to start the second quarter. Kobe Bryant, who was ineffective in the opening quarter and had an extended rest, went on a tear late in the half and scored 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Chris Paul had 11 points and eight assists to lead the Hornets.

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Artest wins citizenship award

Ron Artest was named the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his “outstanding service and dedication to the community.” Artest won for his “tireless” efforts to promote awareness of mental health, including fund-raising, appearing before Congress in support of the Mental Health in Schools Act and his “all-around advocacy on the issue.” In addition, Artest raised more than $650,000 when he raffled off his championship ring in support of mental health awareness. He also filmed a public service announcement in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Dept. of Mental Health.

“Ron has such a passion for the issue, and has demonstrated such leadership he was a perfect choice for such a prestigious award,” said Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, the president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, whose members voted on the award. “His work embodies the kind of dedication to important causes that NBA players have become known for.”

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Hornets 93, Lakers 88

NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers are in a fight they might not have expected from the New Orleans Hornets, dropping Game 4 tonight. A victory would have put the Hornets on the brink of elimination. Instead, the Lakers will look to try to take the lead in the series in Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center. Game 6 will be back in the New Orleans Arena on Thursday. Chris Paul led the Hornets with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists for his second career playoff triple-double. Kobe Bryant had 17 points, one of three Lakers to score in double figures. He turned his left ankle late in the game, however.

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