SCOREBOARD
Saturday, April 12
Denver at Utah (9 p.m. EDT). The Nuggets can clinch their fifth straight playoff berth by winning two of their final three games.

STARS
Friday
-Kobe Bryant, Lakers, had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a 107-104 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
-Joe Johnson, Hawks, scored 34 points in a 116-104 win over the New York Knicks.
-Danny Granger, Pacers, scored 30 points with 12 rebounds to lead Indiana to an 85-76 win over the Sixers.

CHAMPS
The Los Angeles Lakers are Pacific Division champions for the first time in four years and have a shot at the Western Conference title after winning their most important game of the season. Kobe Bryant, making a push for his first MVP award, had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and the Lakers held off the New Orleans Hornets 107-104 Friday night to move within a half-game of the conference-leading Hornets. Houston and San Antonio, both 54-25, trail New Orleans by one game in the tightly bunched West.

STILL ALIVE
Joe Johnson kept the Atlanta Hawks in control of the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, scoring 34 points Friday night in a 116-104 victory over the New York 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. Atlanta trimmed its magic number to two for its first playoff berth since 1999.

CLINGING
Danny Granger scored 15 of his 30 points in the third quarter as the Pacers kept their slim Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive with an 85-76 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. Indiana won its fourth straight but remained two games behind No. 8 Atlanta,which beat New York, with three to play. Even though the Pacers hold the tiebreaker against the Hawks, they still likely need to win their final three games to have a chance at the postseason.

ELIMINATED
Carlos Delfino scored 24 points, Chris Bosh had 21 and the Toronto Raptors eliminated the New Jersey Nets from playoff contention with a 112-85 victory Friday night. Vince Carter had 21 points and Devin Harris added 19 for the Nets, who last missed the playoffs in 2001 season.

WHO'S THE BIG WINNER?
Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry each scored 17 points, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat Miami 96-91 Friday night to ensure that the Heat will finish with the league's worst record. With the NBA's worst record (14-65), the Heat will have the best chance to win the draft lottery held on May 20.

STRONG IN DEFEAT
Amare Stoudemire scored 37 points for the Suns in a 101-90 loss to the Rockets on Friday night. ... LeBron James scored 34 points in Cleveland's 100-95 loss to the Chicago Bulls. ... New Orleans' Chris Paul had 15 points and 17 assists in a 107-104 loss to the Lakers.

HIRED
The Milwaukee Bucks have hired Detroit Pistons vice president John Hammond as their new general manager. Detroit won at least 50 games in all seven seasons Hammond was by the side of GM Joe Dumars, with six division titles, five straight appearances in the Eastern Conference finals and an NBA title in 2004.

SPEAKING
``We're working on a pick, I guess. We'll see what we can get for it.'' - The Heat's Ricky Davis, after a 96-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies ensured Miami will finish with the worst record in the NBA. With the league's worst record (14-65), the Heat will have the best chance to win the draft lottery held on May 20.

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