Lakers rip Rockets in NBA Game Seven

May 18th, 2009 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, May 18 (DPA) With their run for the NBA Championship ring in serious jeopardy, Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers left no doubt they were moving on.
The Spanish centre powered for 21 points with 18 rebounds, and the Lakers ripped the visiting Houston Rockets 89-70 on Sunday in a decisive Game 7 to win their Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

“I’m proud of the way Pau played,” said Lakers leader Kobe Bryant, who had 14 quiet points. “He answered the challenge; he played like one of the best players in the world. It was exciting for him. I just felt defensively he had a superb game.”

Gasol drew motivation from moving a step closer to the ultimate goal of winning a championship.

“We’re all here to accomplish something great,” Gasol said. “It’s been a tough series, but we had the opportunity today to finish it off and move on to the conference finals. That was the only thing on my mind.”

The top-seeded Lakers will have little time to celebrate, however. They host the well-rested, second-seeded Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night in the opener of the best-of-seven conference finals. The Nuggets eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in five games on Thursday night to advance this far for the first time since 1985.

“It’s going to be another physical series, and we have our hands full with them,” said Bryant, despite taking the regular-season series, 3-games-to-1. “We know they’re rested, we know they’re ready, but we will be too.”

The defending NBA champion Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic were also battling in decisive Game Seven later on Sunday, for the right to meet LeBron James and the well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Trevor Ariza scored 15 and Andrew Bynum chipped with 14 for the Lakers, who rebounded from a poor Game Six 95-80 road loss en route to the wire-to-wire win.

Aaron Brooks scored 13 and Argentine Luis Scola 11 for Houston, which shot an icy 37 per cent (28-76) from the floor and was dominated on the boards 55-33.

“I’m really proud of this team, they busted their tails,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said. “But today, they (the Lakers) were the better team. We’ve had ups and downs, but today more downs.”

The Lakers have been the best in the west all season, but have had Jekyll-and-Hyde-type efforts, winning Game Five by 40, but turning in a listless Game Six performance.

Their uneven play allowed the heavily-underdog, undermanned and undersized, but determined Rockets to challenge, despite missing injured All-Stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

The blueprint of the series has been the team leading after the opening quarter wins the game. It was no different in Game Seven as 18,997 fans cheered their heroes at sold out Staples Centre.

Los Angeles came out with a sense of urgency at both ends of the floor to quickly take the upper hand and never looked back.

“We came out real aggressive,” Gasol said. “We came out with a purpose and playing every possession.”

The Lakers opened on an 8-0 run and led 13-2 behind Ariza’s nine points. At the other end, the Rockets missed their first 12 shots floor shots before ending the more than seven-minute drought to fall behind 22-12 after one.

“Coming in here for Game Seven, we knew the Lakers would give us their best shot, especially in the first quarter,” Rockets forward Shane Battier said. “We just didn’t have the energy to match it.”

The Lakers built their lead to 25 on Gasol’s basket late in the second period en route to a commanding 51-31 halftime cushion. Ariza had 13 points, while Gasol contributed 11 with 12 boards.

The Lakers continued to dominate in the second half and coasted home to the lopsided victory.

“We played hard all the way through,” Ariza said. “It’s not over, it’s just another step.”

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