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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gasol's crash tip helps Lakers put away Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers are moving on — battered and bruised, but not beaten.

Pau Gasol tipped in a missed jumper by Kobe Bryant with a half-second left and the defending champion Lakers survived a late comeback effort by Oklahoma City and eliminated the Thunder 95-94 in Game 6 of the first-round playoff series on Friday night.

"This is the playoffs. This is what it's about," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "When you have teams that have won 50 games in the course of a season like this Thunder team did, they have a sense of pride about them. They can play a game that's obviously not far off of what our mark is or was this season.

"We said it was going to be tough, and it was a tough series."

The Lakers were nearly pushed to the limit by eighth-seeded Oklahoma City, which won only 23 games last season before a 27-win improvement that was the best in the NBA. The Thunder climbed out of a seven-point hole with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter but were held without a point over the final 2 1/2 minutes.

Gasol crashed to the rim at the right block and tipped in Bryant's shot, then pumped both fists in celebration.

Russell Westbrook missed a desperation 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Oklahoma City.

The top-seeded Lakers face a quick turnaround before meeting fifth-seeded Utah in Game 1 of the second round on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 26 points on a dreadful 5-for-23 shooting night. Westbrook had 21 points and nine assists. The two combined to score every point in the rally that put Oklahoma City up 94-91 but then couldn't close out the game.

"I'm a competitor. I want to win every game I play," Durant said. "I want to be a champion, and stuff like this hurts. I work so hard, we work so hard as a group, that I think that every time we step on the floor we should win."

It nearly happened.

After missing 17 of his first 20 shots, Durant broke through with a 3-pointer from the right wing that ignited the Thunder. Westbrook followed with a jumper, and his three-point play off a putback of his own miss put Oklahoma City ahead 92-91 with 3:04 to play.

Durant added a driving layup, and Bryant answered with a 6-meter jumper from the left side to make it 94-93 with 2:12 left. It then took Los Angeles five chances to deliver the knockout punch.

Bryant scored 32 points, Gasol had nine points and 18 rebounds and the Lakers' reserves outscored Oklahoma City's 30-16.

Jazz 112, Nuggets 104

In Salt Lake City, Utah also clinched its series in six games, beating Denver.

Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 20 rebounds and rookie Wesley Matthews scored 23 and made a key block as the Jazz pulled away late in the fourth quarter.

Chauncey Billups led Denver with 30 points and Carmelo Anthony finished with 20 points on 6-for-22 shooting.

Hawks 83, Bucks 69

In Milwaukee, Atlanta held the Bucks in check to force a deciding Game 7.

Jamal Crawford broke out of a slump with 24 points and Joe Johnson added 22 points for the Hawks, who will host the decider on Sunday.

Carlos Delfino scored 20 for Milwaukee, which came into the game hoping to finish off its heavily favored opponent but instead went completely flat after halftime.

Brown undecided

CHARLOTTE , N.C. (AP) Larry Brown is being pulled in different directions as he weighs whether to return for a third season as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.

At his end-of-season availability with reporters on Friday, the well-traveled Brown showed two sides. While he talked about his love for coaching and his eagerness to make the Bobcats better, he also lamented about the time he's spent away from his wife and teenage children in Philadelphia.

"I've got a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son and the time I'm away from them I can't get that back," Brown said. "I'll be 70 (in September). I don't feel that way unless I look in the mirror, but I've got to go home and talk to my wife because I love her and I love my kids."

Brown has coached a record 10 pro teams and has had three college head coaching jobs. So his indecision has opened speculation he could bolt for yet another job — at the same time the Philadelphia 76ers are looking for a coach.

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Visit The Japan Times' Web site for a recap of Saturday's bj-league games.

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