Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 19 News List

NBA: Lakers close season with a victory

AFP AND AP , LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza, left, knocks the ball away from Utah Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer during the first half of their NBA game in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Andrew Bynum scored 22 points on Tuesday as the Los Angeles Lakers closed out their National Basketball Association regular season with a 125-112 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The Lakers notched their sixth straight home victory, and it bodes well for Los Angeles, since they will meet Utah in the opening round of the playoffs, which start next weekend.

The Lakers needed six games to defeat Utah in the second round last season, but this Jazz team doesn’t have the same momentum.

Los Angeles tied the 1986-87 team with their 65th victory, making them the third-most winning team in Lakers franchise history, trailing only the 1971-72 team (69) and 1999-00 team (67).

Pau Gasol added 20 points and nine rebounds, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom scored 16 points apiece, and Sasha Vujacic chipped in 15 for the Lakers.

Deron Williams had 25 points and 13 assists for the Jazz, and reserve Andrei Kirilenko added 20.

Bynum, playing his fourth game after missing 32 games with a torn right knee ligament, also had four rebounds and three assists.

The Lakers have clinched the top seed in the West and have home-court advantage through the Western Conference finals.

Eastern Conference powerhouse Cleveland edged them for the best record in the league, earning home court advantage through the NBA finals should they get that far.

CELTICS 100, 76ERS 98

At Philadelphia, Paul Pierce hit the winning jumper, scored 31 points and hindered Philadelphia’s shot at the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed in Boston’s win over the Sixers.

Kevin Garnett missed the meaningless game for Boston to rest his strained knee and Ray Allen served a one-game suspension. Pierce made seven 3-pointers to overcome the absence of the two All-Stars, which had to make the Sixers wonder how they could win a first-round series against a loaded and focused Celtics team.

The Celtics already had the second seed in the East locked up and could face the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers, though, could move up a spot and play Orlando if they were to win last night in Cleveland and the Raptors beat Chicago.

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 25 points and Thaddeus Young had 18.

HAWKS 81, HEAT 79

At Atlanta, Flip Murray scored 17 points to lead Hawks reserves past Heat scrubs in a playoff preview that was more like a preseason game.

With both teams locked into their postseason position — they will play Game 1 in Atlanta this weekend — there was little incentive for either to give significant minutes to top players.

They didn’t.

Miami star Dwyane Wade, who came off a career-best 55 points against the New York Knicks, didn’t even bother dressing. Neither did Jermaine O’Neal or Udonis Haslem, the latter recovering from a deep cut on his right thumb.

Michael Beasley led the Heat with 23 points and 13 rebounds in only 24 minutes.

The Hawks rested Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia, and kept their starters on the bench much of the night. Speedy Claxton, a US$25 million free-agent bust, actually played for the first time in more than two years.

LAKERS 125, JAZZ 112

At Los Angeles, Andrew Bynum scored 22 points in his best effort since returning from injury and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Utah Jazz to close the regular season with their sixth consecutive home victory.

The Lakers tied the 1986-1987 team with their 65th victory, the third-best record in franchise history, trailing only the 1971-1972 team (69) and 1999-2000 team (67).

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