Lakers to face Hornets in first round
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It took 82 games plus an extra overtime to secure the matchup, but the Los Angeles Lakers will begin their three-peat bid against a team they swept 4-0 during the regular season.
The Lakers open up the 2011 postseason at Staples Center as the No. 2 seed playing host to the No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets.
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The Lakers rebounded from a season-long five-game losing streak to end the season with two straight victories, capping the season with a nail-biting 116-108 overtime win in Sacramento on Wednesday to match their 57-25 record of a season ago.
L.A. led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter before needing a game-tying 3-pointer by Kobe Bryant with 4.8 seconds left in regulation followed by a game-saving block on Marcus Thornton to end the fourth quarter.
Bryant added five of his game-high 36 points in OT to preserve the win.
The Hornets went 5-5 down the stretch after leading scorer David West (18.9 points per game) went out with a season-ending ACL tear on March 24, but enter the playoffs riding a three-game losing streak after their 121-89 defeat in Dallas on Wednesday.
The Lakers are expected to welcome Andrew Bynum (right knee bone bruise) and Matt Barnes (right knee soreness) back to the lineup for Game 1 of their first-round series, but Steve Blake (chicken pox) could be out for another week, according to Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.