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Sunday, April 13, 2008
Teams scramble for playoff spots
By ED ODEVEN
Like a boxing match that's decided in the final 10 seconds during a frenetic exchange of punches, the 2007-08 bj-league season will go down to the wire.
The playoff picture has not been set yet.
Four games will be played on Sunday, the final day of the third-year league's regular season.
The Niigata Albirex BB and Tokyo Apache remain tied for second in the Eastern Conference with identical 26-17 records.
Both teams posted home wins on Saturday.
The Albirex edged the visiting Takamatsu Five Arrows 88-85. Forward Andre Smith scored the go-ahead basket with 55 second remaining and Yuichi Ikeda's free throw with 2 seconds to play accounted for the final margin.
Rodney Webb led Niigata with 25 points.
For the Five Arrows, who at 29-14 have secured the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, George Leach had a 23-point effort and Yu Okada added 20 and dished out seven assists
At Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo defeated the visiting Oita HeatDevils 88-74.
Dameion Baker's 18 points led the Apache, who also got double-digit scoring efforts from Cohey Aoki (15), Masashi Joho and John Humphrey (14 apiece).
Jason Braxton's 21 points led the HeatDevils (19-24), who have a must-win game on Sunday to keep alive their postseason aspirations.
Elsewhere Saturday, the host Rizing Fukuoka ended their regular season with a 95-84 victory over the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
Fukuoka, which has won seven of its last 10 games, now waits to see if it or Oita will nab the West's wild-card entry.
The team with the higher overall point differential will play on April 20 against the host Five Arrows by virtue of this obscure tiebreaker.
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, and Oita and Fukuoka went 3-3 against each other this season.
Michael Gardener tallied a game-best 25 points for the Rizing.
For Ryukyu (10-34), which lost eight straight to end the season, Eric Walton had a team-high 22 points.
The visiting Osaka Evessa improved to 30-13 with an 86-83 win over the Sendai 89ers.
Haruhito Shishito dished out a season-high seven assists and Jeff Newton and Lynn Washington both scored 25 points to lead Osaka.
For Sendai (29-14), which has already clinched the Eastern Conference title, Bobby St. Preux's 24 points led four players in double figures.
The Saitama Broncos, meanwhile, recorded an 87-52 win over the visiting Toyama Grouses.