L.A. Lakers 115, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 95
LOS ANGELES, April 19 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant
's final argument for MVP
honors ensured the Los Angeles Lakers would take the court
against the Phoenix Suns come playoff time.
Bryant scored 27 of his 35 points in the first half as the
Lakers secured the seventh seed in the Western Conference
playoffs with a convincing 115-95 triumph over the New Orleans
Hornets in the regular-season finale for both teams.
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added 19 points for Los Angeles (45-37), which
concluded its regular season on a five-game winning streak and
will face second-seeded Phoenix in the first round of the
playoffs. The Lakers lost three of four meetings to the Suns
this season, with Bryant averaging 42.5 points in those
"I think we did a good job," Bryant said of the team's progress
from last season's 34-48 record. "We had some games where we
played extremely well and others we played really bad. The
important thing is we stuck to our plan and every one worked
hard every day in practice. We were patient with one another
and at the end of the season, here we are playing our best
"I am really excited about going into the playoffs and we have a
shot at beating a very good Phoenix team," Lakers guard
added. "It is going to be exciting series."
Bryant compiled his latest dominant performance Wednesday,
making 13-of-26 shots en route to finishing the campaign with a
league-best 35.4 scoring average. His phenomenal season
included an 81-point outburst against Toronto on Jan. 22 and
saw the superstar set the Lakers' single-season scoring record
with 2,832 points.
"It was a good season for me individually," Bryant said. "I am
more proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team, getting
into the postseason. It always feels good to be acknowledged,
but the most important thing is getting into the postseason."
Brown led the offensive charge in the first quarter, scoring 10
points as the Lakers built a 32-20 advantage. Bryant poured in
18 points in the second period to help Los Angeles mount a
stunning 65-38 lead at the half.
The Lakers shot a blistering 55 percent (26-of-47) in the
opening 24 minutes, during which they broke open the game behind
an 18-4 run to end the first quarter and a 12-0 burst midway
through the second period.
"The playoffs are a whole different thing," Bryant said. "You
have to prepare. You have to be ready. And that is what it's
about. It is not about what happened in the regular season or
what happened last season or whatever. It is preparing and
studying your opposition."
scored 16 points to pace the Hornets, who closed the
season with four straight losses but still finished with a
respectable 38-44 record despite playing in the competitive
"Nobody in the NBA dealt with what we had to deal with," said
Brown, regarding the Hornets' situation following Hurricane
Katrina. "Overall, we handled it very well. I don't know how
many teams could handle the situation like we did. We have good
guys on this team with strong character and we have a lot of
pride. We gave the best we could and it was all we had
considering the situation."