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Bryant Helps Lakers Open NBA Postseason With Victory; Magic, Mavericks Win

The Los Angeles Lakers began their postseason pursuit of a second straight National Basketball Association title with an 87-79 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in which they led from start to finish.

The Orlando Magic, who lost to the Lakers in last year’s NBA Finals, also won their playoff opener last night, 98-89 against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Dallas Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-94 and the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Phoenix Suns 105-100.

Kobe Bryant scored 21 points for the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Ron Artest helped limit Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer this season, to a 7-of-24 shooting performance in his playoff debut.

“We tried to limit easy opportunities as much as possible,” Bryant said during his post-game news conference. “We did a good job on them, but we have a long way to go.”

Pau Gasol added 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, the top seed in the Western Conference, who will host Game 2 in the best-of-seven series tomorrow.

Los Angeles has won 13 of its past 14 meetings against the eighth-seeded Thunder.

Orlando has had similar success against its first-round opponent. The Magic’s nine-point win last night at Amway Arena was its 12th in 14 games against the Bobcats.

Jameer Nelson scored 24 of his game-high 32 points in the first half as the Magic opened a 22-point second-half lead and held on for the victory.

Orlando, which is seeded second in the Eastern Conference, improved to 4-1 against Charlotte this season and will host Game 2 on April 21.

Nowitzki Dominates

The Mavericks, the No. 2 seed in the West, beat the Spurs behind a 36-point effort from Dirk Nowitzki at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Nowitzki hit 12-of-14 shots and made all 12 of his free throws.

“Dirk got the best of whatever we tried to do with him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We tried a lot of different things, but he beat them all.”

Dallas, which defeated San Antonio in five games in the opening round of the playoffs last year, is now 4-1 against the Spurs this season. The Mavericks will host Game 2 in two days.

The Blazers were the lone road team to win yesterday as Andre Miller scored 31 points in Phoenix.

It was the first road playoff victory since 2003 for Portland, the sixth seed in the West. Steve Nash had 25 points to lead the third-seeded Suns, yet missed a three-pointer with four seconds left that would have tied the score.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- who had an NBA- best 61 regular-season wins -- are back in action tonight, hosting the Chicago Bulls. The Denver Nuggets host the Utah Jazz in today’s other game.

The Cavaliers and Nuggets won series openers at home.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

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