Lakers, Hornets stand atop the West Print
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Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:49
NBA Headline News

 With the top spot in the Western Conference theirs, the Los Angeles Lakers understand it's a first step.
Not that they're unimpressed by what they achieved this season.
``We talked about it in training camp, our goal was to win the championship,'' Kobe Bryant said after Tuesday night's 124-101 rout of Sacramento. ``It's been a great turnaround. We all feel very good about it. We're excited about it. We're all very proud of each other. There's still a lot of work to be done.''
The Lakers finished 57-25, and even though New Orleans can wind up with the same record, Los Angeles owns the tiebreaker with a better conference mark.
The Lakers enter the playoffs having gone 8-1 to finish the regular season.
``It's all about momentum,'' Bryant said. ``You want to be playing your best basketball going into the playoffs, and we feel like we're doing that so we ended the season exactly where we wanted to.''
The Hornets clinched the Southwest Division when they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 114-92. The Hornets have the No. 2 seed in the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference.
``It's a big step for us,'' star forward David West said. ``We just talked about wanting to improve and being one of the elite teams, and I think we kind of validated ourselves with the ability to come into a tough season and win the toughest division in basketball.''
Elsewhere Tuesday night, it was Detroit 115, Minnesota 103; Orlando 121, Atlanta 105; Portland 113, Memphis 91; and New Jersey 112, Charlotte 108 in overtime.
Lakers 124, Kings 101
Pau Gasol had 22 points, and Bryant added 20. Gasol shot 9-for-11 before coming out of the game for good with 2:38 left in the third quarter, and Bryant joined him on the bench moments later after having shot just 3-for-13. But he went 13-for-14 from the foul line.
Quincy Douby led the visiting Kings (38-44) with a career-high 32 points. Sacramento was missing top scorers Ron Artest and Kevin Martin and center Brad Miller.
Hornets 114, Clippers 92
At New Orleans, West scored 32 points and Chris Paul had 12 during a decisive run in the third quarter.
Hornets coach Byron Scott earned his 300th career victory. The Hornets finished 30-11 at home for the third time in franchise history. The club record is 32-9, set in 1997-98.
After losing three of its past four, New Orleans struggled for a half against the reeling Clippers before putting them away with 26-6 spurt in the third quarter. The Clippers have lost six in a row and are 4-25 in their past 29 games.
Paul finished with 22 points and 12 assists, while Tyson Chandler added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
``We definitely came out in the third quarter and picked up the intensity defensively,'' Paul said. ``We can do that every night if we really put our mind to it. That's the only way we're going to be successful in the playoffs.''
Rookie Al Thornton led the Clippers with 26 points.
Pistons 115, Timberwolves 103
Jarvis Hayes scored 20 points and Richard Hamilton added 18 as the host Pistons clinched the NBA's second-best record behind Boston.
With the victory, Detroit will have home-court advantage over any Western Conference opponent if it makes the NBA Finals.
The loss, which ended Minnesota's two-game winning streak, was its 60th of the season.
Chauncey Billups added 17 points and six assists against his former team, while Al Jefferson led Minnesota with 30 points.
Magic 121, Hawks 105
At Atlanta, Maurice Evans scored a career-high 27 points and six of his Orlando teammates also scored in double figures.
Evans had 23 points in the second half as both playoff-bound teams substituted liberally, knowing the game had no impact on their postseason positioning. The fourth-year guard, who wasn't drafted out of college, eclipsed his previous high of 26 points against Golden State on Feb. 25.
Orlando already clinched the Southeast Division and will be the No. 3 seed in the East, facing Philadelphia. The Hawks are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 as the eighth-seeded team and will play Boston.
Trail Blazers 113, Grizzlies 91
At Portland, James Jones hit six 3-pointers and had 20 points to give the Trail Blazers a shot at a winning record. Brandon Roy had 16 points and 11 assists for Portland (41-40), back over .500 with one game left, Wednesday night at Phoenix. The Blazers have not finished with a winning record since the 2002-03 season.
Jarrett Jack scored 18 points and Channing Frye had 16 for Portland.
Hakim Warrick led Memphis with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Grizzlies were without veteran guard Mike Miller because of back spasms and guard Javaris Crittenton, who has a sprained right thumb.
Nets 112, Bobcats 108, OT
Richard Jefferson scored 28 points as the Nets rallied from a 20-point first-half deficit. Vince Carter added 18 points, Devin Harris had 17 and eight assists and the Nets limited the visiting Bobcats to 47 points in the final 29 minutes after giving up 61 in the first half.
Jason Richardson had 31 points to lead Charlotte in the meaningless game between two non-playoff teams. Nazr Mohammed added 19 points, Raymond Felton had 18 and Emeka Okafor had 15 rebounds.
 

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