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Bryant, Lakers earn seventh seed in West

Apr 19, 2007 - 6:21 AM SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers are headed back to the Valley of the Sun.

Superstar Kobe Bryant collected 34 points and seven rebounds as the Lakers posted a 117-106 triumph over the Sacramento Kings in the regular-season finale.

With the win, the Lakers (42-40) wrapped up seventh place in the Western Conference to set up a first-round rematch with the Phoenix Suns in a best-of-seven series.

"We have a chance to be prepared," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We're 1-3 against them this season, not great. But we feel comfortable about playing them, we think we know how to play them."

Last season, Los Angeles watched a 3-1 lead get erased by Phoenix, which won the Pacific Division for the third straight campaign.

"We felt like we gave away a couple of games in that Phoenix series," Jackson said. "The fifth game we were disjointed a little bit. The sixth game was a happenstance situation that gave them a victory. We felt like we didn't give it all we had to in the seventh game. We missed shots that really changed the course of that ballgame early in the game."

An MVP candidate, Bryant became the first player since Tracy McGrady to win back-to-back scoring titles and finished with the most 50-point games (10) since Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain's 45 during the 1961-62 campaign.

"It's cool. It's always a sense of accomplishment because there are so many great basketball players in the NBA," said Bryant, who averaged 31.6 points this season said. "It's always fun to be at the top of that list."

Bryant also is the first Laker since George Mikan to lead the NBA in scoring in consecutive seasons. Mikan accomplished the feat three straight times, when the club was located in Minneapolis.

Los Angeles took the lead for good in the third quarter behind an impressive 20-5 burst capped by rookie Jordan Farmar's alley-oop to Kwame Brown to forge a 73-63 edge at the 6:07 mark.

Lamar Odom had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Luke Walton added 10 and 11 for Los Angeles, which won the season series, 3-1, against Sacramento.

In his second straight game after missing six due to a sprained ankle, Brown had 17 points and four rebounds.

"He (Brown) looked really good," Bryant said. "It looks like all the therapy and time he took to heal has paid off because he's moving really well."

"He gives us such a defensive presence," Odom said. "He's so physical, he's one of the strongest guys in the league. He's quick, and of course he helps us on the boards. We need all we can get right now if we want to make a run."

Mike Bibby scored 17 points and defensive standout Ron Artest had 16 and two steals for the Kings (33-49), who had their streak of eight straight postseason appearances ended.

"I think everybody has a bitter taste in their mouths - we would have liked for things to go better for us this year," Kings forward Shareef Adbur-Rahim said. "But this is the situation, so we have to regroup,work hard this summer and come back next season. I think all of us would like to come back and redeem ourselves."

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