Pau Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, Metta World Peace scored 15 points in his return from a seven-game suspension, and the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Denver Nuggets for a thrilling 96-87 home victory in Game 7 on Saturday night to win their Western Conference first-round series.
Steve Blake scored a playoff career-high 19 points and Kobe Bryant had 17 points and eight assists for the Lakers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before surviving a finale with wild momentum swings and furious physical play. With Gasol leading an emotional effort, the Lakers narrowly avoided becoming the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead.
Andrew Bynum had 16 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for Los Angeles.
At Celtics 92, 76ers 91: Rajon Rondo has made dozens of last-second dashes to the basket.
This time, he went in the opposite direction.
The Celtics point guard ran into the backcourt, grabbing the inbounds pass in stride, avoiding a foul and dribbling out the final 3.4 seconds to clinch Boston’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I feel like I could out-quick him. That’s what I did,” Rondo said. “We knew they had a foul to give. I told Doc (Rivers) to get me the ball and I could use my speed.”
Rondo had 17 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career playoff triple-double. Kevin Garnett scored 29 points — his most in the regular- or postseason this year — and added 11 rebounds to help Boston maintain home-court advantage in the best-of-seven, second-round series.
Andre Iguodala scored 19 points and Evan Turner had 16 with 10 rebounds for Philadelphia.
LEBRON JOINS ELITE
Heat forward LeBron James accepted his third league MVP award Saturday, making him the eighth player in league history to win that many. The others — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone — all have won NBA titles.
James received 85 of a possible 121 first-place votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league, with fans on NBA.com combining for one vote. He earned 1,074 points, topping Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (889 points, 24 first-place votes), the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul (385, six first-place votes), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (352, two first-place votes), and San Antonio’s Tony Parker (331, four first-place votes).
The Lakers issued a statement publicly backing Mike Brown after Magic Johnson declared the first-year head coach would be fired if Los Angeles lost Game 7 of its first-round playoff series with Denver. … Bulls star Derrick Rose has undergone surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and there’s a good chance he will miss the early portion of next season. … The NBA has fined Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. $35,000 for publicly criticizing NBA officiating and making negative comments about Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, calling him “the dirtiest guy in the league”. The league also fined Atlanta rookie Ivan Johnson $25,000 for directing an obscene gesture toward fans.