The Los Angeles Lakers are returning to the National Basketball Association playoffs after a one-year absence.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 of his 43 points in the first half Sunday as the Lakers clinched a Western Conference playoff berth with a 109-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns. In Miami, Luol Deng of Senegal scored 26 points to help the Chicago Bulls overcome a 15-point deficit and beat the Heat, 117-93. Chicago earned an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Washington Wizards defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-92, to reserve their Eastern Conference playoff spot. The opening round of the NBA playoffs begin April 22.
In other NBA action Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 103-90, the Utah Jazz were eliminated from post-season play in their 111-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Sacramento Kings clinched a Western Conference playoff spot by beating the New Orleans Hornets 96-79 and the Detroit Pistons defeated the New York Knicks 103-97. The New Jersey Nets edged the Boston Celtics 95-93 and the Seattle Supersonics crushed the Los Angeles Clippers 114-98.