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Artest Delivers on Playoff Vow

From the Associated Press

Ron Artest really did predict the future. The Sacramento Kings are headed to the playoffs, just as he guaranteed back in January -- and now Artest won’t be satisfied with a short stay.

Mike Bibby made five three-point baskets while scoring 23 points, and the Kings celebrated their eighth consecutive playoff berth with a 96-79 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night at Sacramento.

Sacramento’s playoff spot was clinched midway through the fourth quarter when ninth-place Utah lost, 111-95, at Dallas, but the Kings still finished impressively in their 10th consecutive victory over the Hornets at Arco Arena since 1997.

“It’s gratifying to come from where we were, especially the last three weeks,” Adelman said. “We got back into this thing, and that’s a real accomplishment. On Jan. 30, we were behind about six teams that didn’t make it. ... This is the fun part. It’s a new season, and anything can happen.”

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Artest, acquired in a trade for Peja Stojakovic, went even further.

“We’re not finished,” he said. “We’ve got a long season ahead of us. We’re far from done. Our goal is to come out of this year No. 1 and win a championship.”

The eighth-place Kings can still finish seventh in the West, but only if they beat Seattle on Tuesday and the Hornets beat the Lakers on Wednesday. If not, Sacramento likely will open the postseason at the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

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Chicago 117, Miami 93 -- Luol Deng scored 17 of his 26 points in the first half on his 21st birthday to spearhead the Bulls’ rally from an early 15-point deficit at Miami to clinch a playoff berth.

Chicago, ending an 11-game losing streak at Miami, could still finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the Eastern Conference race. The Bulls also ended the slim playoff hopes of Orlando.

And, almost certainly to the chagrin of the Magic, the Heat -- which already have secured the No. 2 seeding in the East -- rested Dwyane Wade for the final 21 1/2 minutes and Shaquille O’Neal for the final 16 1/2 .

O’Neal added 14 points in 20 minutes and Wade had only eight points on two-for-12 shooting in 20 minutes, ending his team-record streak of 78 consecutive games in double figures.

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Washington 104, Cleveland 92 -- Gilbert Arenas had 35 points to help the host Wizards end a five-game losing streak and clinch consecutive playoff berths for the first time since 1988.

Washington could still finish anywhere from fifth to eighth, and its victory eliminated Philadelpha from the playoff race.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland’s lineup after sitting out a game for the first time this season because of a sprained left ankle. He scored 17 points in 29 1/2 minutes.

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Detroit 103, New York 97 -- Richard Hamilton scored 28 points and Tayshaun Prince added 20 as the Pistons set a franchise record for wins with their 64th at Auburn Hills, Mich.

The Pistons (64-16) broke the mark of 63 wins set by the 1988-89 team.

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San Antonio 103, Minnesota 90 -- Tony Parker had 11 points and Tim Duncan added 10 points as the visiting Spurs moved closer to clinching the best record in the Western Conference.

San Antonio needs one more win or one more Dallas loss for the best record in the West.

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Dallas 111, Utah 95 -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 14 of his 22 points on free throws in a victory at Dallas.

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New Jersey 95, Boston 93 -- Nenad Krstic scored 18 points to help the host Nets win for the 17th time in their last 20 games.


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