LOS ANGELES — A day before Andrew Bynum produced one of the most eye-popping defensive performances in NBA playoff history, he spoke up to his Lakers teammates about the importance of getting off to a good start in their championship quest.
With an NBA record-tying 10 blocked shots, the 7-foot All-Star center put the Lakers on the good foot — and the Denver Nuggets on their heels.
Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, Bynum posted the Lakers' first playoff triple-double in 21 years, and Los Angeles thoroughly controlled the tempo in a playoff-opening 103-88 victory Sunday.
Despite a few well-chronicled fluctuations in his motivation and discipline this year, the seventh-year pro had perfect focus in Game 1, capping his utter dominance in the paint with his record-tying block of Timofey Mozgov with 3:02 to play. Bynum also had 10 points and 13 rebounds before checking out to an ovation.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
Just how dominant were Bynum and his tall teammates against the NBA's highest-scoring team? Bynum blocked 11 percent of the Nuggets' 90 shots, and with 15 total blocks, Lakers swatted one of every six Denver shots, separating the Nuggets from any hope of a late rally.
"His timing was impeccable today," Bryant said of Bynum. "He really understood the rhythm of their offensive players. He was just there at the exact moment, either to change or block the shot."
While Bynum had the Lakers' first playoff triple-double since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA finals, fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the playoff-tested Lakers, who never trailed while forcing Denver to play Los Angeles' preferred half-court style.
Bynum blocked eight shots in the first three quarters before surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise-record nine blocks in the fourth. He eventually equaled the NBA record set by Utah's Mark Eaton on April 26, 1985, and matched by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on April 29, 1990.
HAWKS 83, CELTICS74: At Atlanta, Josh Smith scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, leading the Hawks over Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday night. The final minute turning ugly when Celtics star Rajon Rondo was ejected for bumping an official.
The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining — and may have cost himself a chance to play Game 2 Tuesday night.
Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Smith tussling for a loose ball. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who quickly called a technical. Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was tossed out. A suspension could be coming, too.
CLIPPERS 99, GRIZZLIES 98: At Memphis, Chris Paul hit a pair of free throws with 23.7 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from 27 down to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening game of the Western Conference series.
Rudy Gay missed a 15-footer with 0.9 seconds left after the Grizzlies squandered a lead they held for the first 47 minutes.
The Clippers lost Caron Butler to a broken left hand. But Nick Young scored 19 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers in the midst of the Clippers' 26-1 run. Paul finished with 14 points while playing a team-high 38 minutes despite a groin injury that kept him out of the regular season finale against the Knicks. Blake Griffin had 17 and Butler 12 before leaving the game.
Gay finished with 19 for Memphis. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo had 17, and Marc Gasol scored 14.
The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 35-13 in the fourth quarter, the most points in the fourth quarter by a Memphis opponent this season. Los Angeles also hit 13 of 17 from the floor, including 5 of 6 beyond the arc after hitting only one the first three quarters.