|Kobe Bryant leads Lakers to first division title in 4 years with 107-104 win over New Orleans|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 12 April 2008 01:11|
The Lakers' star guard, however, knew where the real praise belonged.
``It's a testament to our hard work and our unity,'' Bryant said of the Lakers, who blew all but one point of a 30-point lead before beating the New Orleans Hornets 107-104 Friday night to clinch the division.
Bryant had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers (55-25), who will enter the playoffs seeded no lower than third in the Western Conference, meaning they'll have homecourt advantage in the first round.
The Lakers can win the West if they can beat visiting San Antonio on Sunday and Sacramento on Tuesday night and New Orleans (55-24) loses one of its final three games. The Hornets play road games against the Kings and Dallas Mavericks and a home game against the Clippers.
If Los Angeles and New Orleans finish with the same record, the Lakers get the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage at least until the NBA finals because of a better record against conference opponents. The teams split their four regular-season games.
``It's good to be No. 1,'' Bryant said. ``This was the first step. We want to take another one Sunday.''
In other NBA games, it was: Chicago 100, Cleveland 95; Minnesota 102, Orlando 101; Toronto 113, New Jersey 85; Indiana 85, Philadelphia 76; Boston 102, Milwaukee 86; Memphis 96, Miami 91; Atlanta 116, New York 104; Detroit 102, Washington 74; Houston 101, Phoenix 90; San Antonio 95, Seattle 74; and Sacramento 103, Portland 86.
When asked about the possibility of winning the MVP award, Bryant said: ``The MVP nowadays is not an individual award, you really have to make your teammates better and elevate your ballclub. I think for me to be nominated in that race is a tremendous honor because that's really been one of the criticisms people have had of me, how well I make my teammates better. From that standpoint, I feel like I have already won.''
Peja Stojakovic led the Hornets with 24 points. Tyson Chandler added 18 points and eight rebounds, Pargo scored 17 points and Paul had 15 points and 17 assists.
Pau Gasol added 25 points, Fisher scored 15, and Lamar Odom had 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers.
``They were just physical and much more aggressive,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said. ``They were playing with a purpose. We were out there playing a basketball game. And that's the difference.''
Raptors 113, Nets 85
At Toronto, Carlos Delfino scored 24 points, Chris Bosh had 21 and the Toronto Raptors eliminated the New Jersey Nets from playoff contention with a 113-85 victory Friday night.
Vince Carter had 21 points and Devin Harris added 19 for the Nets, who last missed the playoffs in 2001.
Celtics 102, Bucks 86
At Boston, Rajon Rondo had 16 points and 10 assists, then joined the rest of the Boston starters on the bench for the fourth quarter. None played more than 25 minutes on Friday, and all sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Hawks 116, Knicks 104
At New York, Joe Johnson kept Atlanta in control of the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, scoring 34 points in a victory over the Knicks.
Trying to end the NBA's longest postseason drought, the Hawks remained two games ahead of the Indiana Pacers with three to play for each team.
Pacers 85, 76ers 76
At Philadelphia, Danny Granger had 30 points and 12 rebounds, and Indiana won its fourth straight.
Grizzlies 96, Heat 91
At Miami, Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry each scored 17 points, and Memphis beat Miami to ensure that the Heat will finish with the league's worst record.
Bulls 100, Cavaliers 95
At Chicago, LeBron James tied a Cavaliers record by scoring 24 of his 34 points in the first quarter, but Luol Deng finished with 21 to lead the Bulls.
James made all 10 of his shots in the first quarter but finished 13-for-21 from the field.
Timberwolves 102, Magic 101
Orlando, Fla., Ryan Gomes made a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining for Minnesota.
Randy Foye had a game-high 25 points and Rashad McCants added 19 to lead the Timberwolves, who snapped a six-game losing streak. The playoff-bound Magic have lost six of 10 games.
Pistons 102, Wizards 74
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Jason Maxiell scored a career-high 28 points, Chauncey Billups added 13 and Detroit rebounded from back-to-back losses.
The Wizards are two games behind Cleveland for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and one game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the fifth seed.
Rockets 101, Suns 90
At Houston, Tracy McGrady had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and Luis Scola added 19 points.
Houston's Shane Battier sat out with a bruised left foot and ankle, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 221.
Amare Stoudemire scored 37 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 16 points for the Suns, who mustered their lowest point total since a 116-86 loss to Detroit on Feb. 24.
Spurs 95, SuperSonics 74
San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 20 points and the Spurs easily handled Seattle.
After struggling offensively for their last three games, the Spurs shot 41-of-89 (46 percent) from the field and led by as many as 24 points.
Kings 103, Trail Blazers 86
Sacramento, Calif., John Salmons scored 18 points in the second half to lead the Kings over Portland. Salmons, who started in place of the injured Ron Artest, also added six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Portland.