Basketball: Lakers thump Rockets to advance in NBA playoffs



LOS ANGELES- The Los Angeles Lakers silenced their critics Sunday, posting a convincing 89-70 victory over Houston to reach the National Basketball Association Western Conference finals.
The Lakers, the top seeds in the Western Conference playoffs, had been extended to a decisive seventh game by the injury-depleted Rockets.



Basketball: Lakers thump Rockets to advance in NBA playoffs
But with the win they advanced to a meeting with the Denver Nuggets, with the Lakers slated to host game one on Tuesday in the best-of-seven series that will send one team to the NBA finals.
Pau Gasol scored 21 points and pulled down 18 rebounds as the Lakers jumped out to a quick lead that they never relinquished.
Los Angeles dominated inside, taking advantage of the absence of Houston big man Yao Ming, who was diagnosed with a broken foot after the third game of the series.
The Lakers needed just minutes to establish an 8-0 lead, aided by two Rockets turnovers and a blocked shot. They led by 20 at halftime.
The Rockets didn't get on the scoreboard until Aaron Brooks made a brace of free throws more than five minutes into the game.
It didn't bode well for the Rockets, since the team leading after the first quarter has won all 13 of their playoff games.
Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant scored 14 points with five assists and seven rebounds while teammate Andrew Bynum, finally finding his form this postseason, also scored 14.
Despite the injury absence of Tracy McGrady since February, Houston had advanced to the second round for the first time in 12 years.
But the loss of Yao was more than they could overcome against last year's Western Conference champions Los Angeles.
While Houston won two games after Yao was sidelined, they couldn't work the magic on the road in game seven.
Speedy point guard Brooks, who penetrated the Lakers defense seemingly at will in Houston's game six victory, missed all four of his attempts from the field in the opening quarter.
He finished with 13 points for the Rockets, who had 11 from Luis Scola.
Ron Artest missed seven of 10 shots in 39 minutes and finished with seven points for the Rockets.
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Monday, May 18th 2009
AFP
           


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