|Lakers, Nuggets win big to gain control of their playoff fates|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 13 April 2008 23:01|
What's left for Los Angeles and Denver to reach their respective postseason goals seems fairly easy to handle.
Led by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers routed the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs 106-85 at home Sunday to move into sole possession of first in the Western Conference.
Late in Denver, the Nuggets helped the Lakers and themselves, blowing out the Rockets 111-94 to move a half-game ahead of Golden State for the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
The Lakers, who can finish no worse than No. 3 in the West, will earn the top seed and home-court advantage through the first three playoff rounds if they beat the visiting Sacramento Kings (38-42) on Tuesday night.
``It's still our responsibility to finish this the right way,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ``And that was our message in the locker room after the game. Fortunately for us, we got some rest, got some guys who had a little bit of time to recover before Tuesday night.''
In other NBA games on Sunday, it was Detroit 91, Toronto 84; Cleveland 84, Miami 76; Orlando 104, Chicago 84; and Seattle 99, Dallas 95.
All the Nuggets have to do to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season is beat lowly Memphis (22-58) on Wednesday night at home.
Bryant had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists before sitting out the fourth quarter for the Lakers.
``It was a big game for us,'' Bryant said. ``It was another step in the right direction. Going into the playoffs is all about momentum. Now, we just have to take it up another notch once the playoffs start.''
The Lakers went home after Sunday's game uncertain of their status because the Houston Rockets had a chance to overtake them for the conference title by winning their final three games. But Houston was throttled by Denver.
The Warriors could become the first team to win 50 games and miss the playoffs. To get in, the Warriors need to win at Phoenix on Monday night, beat Seattle on Wednesday and have Denver lose.
Bouncing in and out of the eighth and final playoff spot for a month, no team has had more of a roller-coaster ride than the Nuggets, who won a huge game at Golden State only to lose at Utah on Saturday night before bouncing back against the Rockets.
``It's impossible to feel good because for three weeks we've been feeling stressed,'' Denver coach George Karl said. ``You never play three playoff teams in three games in four nights in three different cities that had huge, huge ramifications. We survived it; we won two out of three, but we're still not out of the woods.''
Allen Iverson scored 33 points for Denver and J.R. Smith added 23.
As for the Rockets, they fell 1 1/2 games behind Los Angeles and can still secure the top seed in the West, but they're going to need plenty of help.
Tracy McGrady was flabbergasted the Rockets played so poorly with so much to play for on this night.
``That team needed a win badly and we played like it really didn't matter to us,'' said McGrady, who scored 16 points and was hounded by foul trouble. ``And at this point in the season, although we clinched, we still have to bring it every night.''
In Los Angeles, Tony Parker had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Spurs, and Tim Duncan added 16 points and 12 rebounds. San Antonio played without leading scorer Manu Ginobili, who missed his second game because of a strained left groin.
``Come playoff time, we'll have as good a chance as anybody to do well,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
SuperSonics 99, Mavericks 95
At Seattle, rookie Kevin Durant scored twice in the final 45 seconds, and the Sonics won what could be the team's last game in Seattle.
The team might be playing in Oklahoma City next season and is putting the finishing touches on the worst record in franchise history.
Earl Watson led Seattle with 21 points and 10 assists, while Nick Collison had 18 points and 11 rebounds as Seattle scored the final 10 points and handed Dallas a second straight loss.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 32 points and Seattle native Jason Terry added 25.
Magic 104, Bulls 84
At Chicago, Hedo Turkoglu scored 24 points, and Orlando reached the 50-win mark for the first time in 12 years.
Dwight Howard added 19 points even though he sat out the fourth quarter, and Rashard Lewis added 18.
Andres Nocioni led Chicago with 22 points and Luol Deng added 19.
Cavaliers 84, Hear 76
At Cleveland, Daniel Gibson made a 3-pointer and three straight free throws early in the fourth quarter to give the Cavs some cushion while LeBron James rested.
Cleveland moved closer to the East's No. 4 seed.
Delonte West scored 18 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 and 14 rebounds and James finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Cavaliers.
Ricky Davis scored 17 points and Daequan Cook and Earl Barron had 13 apiece for Miami (14-66), whose dismal season is nearly over.
Pistons 91, Raptors 84
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Rodney Stuckey scored 18 points, Jason Maxiell had 14 as Detroit won without playing its starters in the fourth quarter.
The loss drops Toronto (40-40) into a tie with Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's sixth seed with two games left, although the Raptors have the tiebreaker. The sixth seed will play Orlando in the first round, while the seventh seed faces Detroit.
Chris Bosh had 30 points for Toronto.