The Los Angeles Lakers began the season in chaos 5 1/2 months ago. They finished it as the Western Conference champions. Pau Gasol had 22 points, leading MVP candidate Kobe Bryant added 20, and the Lakers beat the short-handed Sacramento Kings 124-101 Tuesday night to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
The Lakers (57-25), who won eight of their last nine games, begin the playoffs this weekend—most likely Sunday—against Denver or Dallas. It will be the Nuggets unless they beat Memphis and Dallas loses to New Orleans on Wednesday night. If the Hornets win, they'll have the same record as the Lakers, but Los GaAngeles wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a better conference record.