|Bryant scores 50 again, lifts Lakers to playoffs|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 15 April 2007 20:55|
Bryant finished with 50 points on 18-of-25 shooting Sunday night to carry the Lakers to a 109-98 victory over Seattle that clinched a playoff spot for Los Angeles. He scored 50 or more for the 10th time this season, the third-highest total in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain's 45 times with 50 or more in 1961-62, and the center's 30 times the following season.
Bryant has reached the 50-point plateau 21 times in his career.
``We feel much better. We needed this type of win,'' Bryant said after the Lakers won for just the third time in 11 games.
In other games Sunday, it was: Dallas 91, San Antonio 86; Golden State 121, Minnesota 108; Sacramento 105, L.A. Clippers 100; Orlando 88, Boston 86; New Jersey 111, Indiana 107; Toronto 107, New York 105; Philadelphia 102, Detroit 91; and Chicago 101, Washington 68.
Bryant said that when the playoffs begin, he may score a lot of points and he may not.
``If the jumper is on, we'll ride it out,'' he said. ``If it's not, we'll have to find another way to win. Our defensive continuity is going to be our biggest challenge.''
Phil Jackson has never missed the playoffs in his 17 years as an NBA coach.
The Lakers, who have one regular-season game remaining, at Sacramento on Wednesday night, will finish seventh or eighth in the Western Conference and face either Dallas or Phoenix in the first round.
Mavericks 91, Spurs 86
Losing a tense, physical, emotional game to their top rival and being forced to settle for the third seed in the Western Conference was bad enough for Tim Duncan and the visiting Spurs.
Even worse: Duncan is convinced official Joey Crawford is out to get him, with a brawl possibly needed to settle things.
Crawford hit Duncan with two technical fouls just 1:16 apart late in the third quarter of San Antonio's loss to Dallas. The second came while he was laughing on the bench and meant an automatic ejection, just the second of his nine-year career.
``He looked at me and said, `Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?''' Duncan said. ``If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?'''
The Spurs sorely missed their top player down the stretch, failing to score a basket over the last 6:32 while allowing a 9-0 run to end the game.
The Mavericks won for the 66th time this season, tying the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for ninth-best in league history, and finished 36-5 at home.
Warriors 121, Timberwolves 108
Jason Richardson had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and surging and host Golden State took sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference standings with a victory.
The Warriors (40-40) did it with one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard, where they watched the Clippers (39-41) fall out of their eighth-place tie with Golden State in a 105-100 loss to Sacramento.
Kings 105, Clippers 100
Reserve swingman Francisco Garcia scored 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, and Ron Artest had a career-high 10 assists to lead visiting Sacramento.
Magic 88, Celtics 86
Hedo Turkoglu blocked Delonte West's driving layup at the buzzer to help host Orlando clinch its first playoff berth in four years with a win.
Orlando's win and Indiana's 111-107 loss against New Jersey combined to clinch the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs for Orlando.
Turkoglu led the Magic with 20 points. Grant Hill and Jameer Nelson had 16 points each and Dwight Howard added 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Nets 111, Pacers 107
Vince Carter scored 35 points to help visiting New Jersey eliminate Indiana from the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Bostjan Nachbar scored 25 points and shot 6-for-6 from 3-point range and Jason Kidd had 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Nets.
Jermaine O'Neal led the Pacers with 20 points.
Indiana's loss combined with Orlando's victory over Boston eliminated the Pacers from playoff contention. Indiana will miss the postseason for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Raptors 107, Knicks 105
Chris Bosh scored 23 points and host Toronto earned home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a victory over New York.
Anthony Parker and Joey Graham each added 19 points for the Raptors, who won their season-high sixth straight game and will be the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto matched its franchise record of 47 wins, accomplished in 2000-01.
76ers 102, Pistons 91
Willie Green scored 26 points to lead visiting Philadelphia.
Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 15 points, but the next five players in Detroit's usual rotation combined for only 24 points.
Bulls 101, Wizards 68
Visiting Chicago's stifling defense limited Washington to a season-low point total.
Ben Gordon scored 30 points, Chicago held Washington to 34 percent shooting, and the Bulls beat the depleted Wizards for their third consecutive victory.