Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and the Los Angeles Lakers emphatically silenced the doubters and the Houston Rockets, winning Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals 89-70 today to advance to the Western finals against the Denver Nuggets. With Gasol scoring 21 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, the Lakers looked like the conference's top-seeded team, not the inconsistent one that maddened fans all week.
The Lakers dominated the paint on both ends, forcing the Rockets into turnovers and bad shots, and owning the backboards. They had an 8-0 lead a few minutes in and widened it to 25 points on Gasol's jump hook shortly before halftime. The Lakers, trying to reach the NBA finals for the second straight year, host the opener of the conference finals against Denver on Tuesday night. (Read more basketball stories.)