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Lakers take share of NBA lead

THE Los Angeles Lakers won an eighth straight game by beating the Denver Nuggets 116-102 yesterday, giving them a share of the overall NBA lead.

Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Pau Gasol added 27 points and 19 rebounds as the Lakers moved level with Cleveland for the league lead.

Los Angeles also welcomed back center Andrew Bynum, playing in his first game since tearing knee ligaments in January. He had 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Nuggets lost for the first time in nine games and did not take its first opportunity to secure the number two seed in the Western Conference.

Bulls 113, 76ers 99

In Chicago, the hosts closed in on a playoff spot by downing Philadelphia.

Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas each scored 24 points for the Bulls, who now need only one more win or Charlotte to have one more loss to wrap up a spot in the playoffs.

Chicago also moved half a game ahead of Detroit in the Eastern Conference standings.

Thomas set a season-high for points while converting a career-best 14 of 14 free throws. He scored 10 points in the third quarter and Gordon added seven as the Bulls turned a halftime tie into an 82-72 lead before pulling away for their 13th home win in 14 games.

The loss was the third straight for Philadelphia, which is already assured of a playoff spot.

Rockets 115, Kings 98

In Sacramento, California, a big third quarter by Houston delivered victory over Sacramento, giving the Rockets first place in the Southwest Division.

Ron Artest scored 26 points for Houston, who trailed by five at halftime but dominated the third quarter, taking an 11-point lead that never dipped back into single digits in the fourth.

The Kings dropped their sixth straight. With the NBA's worst record at 16-62, Sacramento is on track to have its worst finish in franchise history.


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