Pau Gasol scored 29 points with 15 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers — with Kobe Bryant looking on — secured home court advantage through the NBA Western Conference playoffs with a win over Minnesota.
Lamar Odom had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the defending champions, who beat the Timberwolves 97-88 and have the top seed in the West for the third straight season.
Coach Phil Jackson rested Bryant for the second night in a row.
Bryant has been bothered by an aching right index finger, which contributed to his 13-for-47 shooting in his previous two games played.
Jackson also wants Bryant’s legs to be fresh for a title run in a Western Conference in which all eight playoff teams could be 50-game winners.
Jonny Flynn scored 19 points and Kevin Love had 12 points and 18 rebounds for Minnesota, who were missing their leading scorer as well.
Al Jefferson missed his second straight game and has not been with the team for the last four days while spending time with a relative who has been in hospital.
Jackson said several fans who saw him in the team hotel expressed their frustration that Bryant wouldn’t play in the Lakers’ only trip to Minneapolis this season.
“I’ve already said I’m sorry to a couple people,” he said.
MAVERICKS 83, TRAIL BLAZERS 77
In Portland, Oregon, Dallas clinched the Southwest Division by beating Portland.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 40 points, making a key 3-pointer with under three minutes left. He had 10 rebounds and was 17 for 17 from the free throw line for the Mavericks.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points for the Blazers, who had won the three previous meetings with the Mavericks this season.
PACERS 116, CAVALIERS 113
In Cleveland, Ohio, Danny Granger had 36 points, including nine of Indiana’s final 11, as the Pacers beat Cleveland’s backups.
With home-court advantage clinched through the NBA finals, Cavs coach Mike Brown is using this week to rest some regulars. Cleveland played without starters LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and Shaquille O’Neal, plus reserve Daniel Gibson.
The Pacers took advantage, ending a 10-game losing streak in Cleveland.
HAWKS 107, RAPTORS 101
In Atlanta, Georgia, the hosts hung on to beat Toronto, and reached the 50-win mark for the first time in 12 years.
The Hawks matched their season low for points in a first quarter when they trailed 25-14, but scored a season-high 45 points in the second quarter and never looked back. Jamal Crawford scored 15 of his 25 points in the second.
Atlanta moved ahead of Boston into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Amir Johnson had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto, which remained tied with Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
THUNDER 96, SUNS 91
In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Kevin Durant scored 35 points and rookie reserve Serge Ibaka hit a crucial basket in the final minute, allowing Oklahoma City Thunder to stave off a late Phoenix Suns rally and win 96-91 in the NBA on Friday.
The Thunder limited Phoenix to a season-low 34 points in the second half, but needed a late basket from an unlikely source to avoid a third straight heartbreaking defeat.
Ibaka scored inside with 33 seconds left to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 91-86, after the Suns had closed a 12-point deficit to three. Ibaka ended up matching his career high with 15 points, and Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha also scored 15 for the Thunder.
Amare Stoudemire had 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead Phoenix, which took a step back in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
GRIZZLIES 107, SPURS 99
In San Antonio, Texas, Memphis dealt San Antonio a heavy setback in a tight playoff race.
Zach Randolph had 28 points and 15 rebounds, and Rudy Gay added 21 points for the Grizzlies who, with nothing to play for with their own playoffs hopes gone, settled for dropping the Spurs back down to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
It was the first win for Memphis in San Antonio since 2005.
In other NBA play, it was:
• Jazz 114, Hornets 103
• Magic 118, Knicks 103
• Rockets 97, Bobcats 90
• Wizards 106, Celtics 96
• Bucks 95, 76ers 90
• Pistons 106, Heat 99
• Nets 127, Bulls 116, 2OT
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Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
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Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes. The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo. The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given