Unstoppable at both ends of the floor this season, LeBron James was named the NBA’s most valuable player Monday, receiving the award in the high school gym where he first emerged on the national scene.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star won what some expected to be a close vote in a slam dunk. He received 109 of a possible 121 first-place votes to easily outdistance Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. James totaled 1,172 points in balloting by media members in the U.S. and Canada.
Bryant, last year’s winner, got two first-place votes and finished with 698 points. Miami guard Dwyane Wade was third with 680 points and was named first on seven ballots. Orlando center Dwight Howard (328) was fourth followed by New Orleans guard Chris Paul (192).
•Rockets edge Lakers: Yao Ming, who briefly left with a knee injury in the closing minutes, had 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to a physical 100-92 victory win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals at Los Angeles.
Ron Artest added 21 points and Aaron Brooks had 19 for the Rockets.
Kobe Bryant scored 32 points, doing his best to keep the Lakers in the game despite missing practice on Sunday with a sore throat.
Houston forward Shane Battier needed four stitches to close a gash over his left eye late in the first quarter.
•Magic take 1-0 lead: Dwight Howard returned from his one-game suspension to get 16 points and 22 rebounds and help the Orlando Magic hold off the late-charging Boston Celtics 95-90 in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Boston.
The Magic opened a 28-point lead early in the second half before Boston cut the deficit to 91-87 in the final 2 minutes. The Celtics had several chances to come within one possession – the best Ray Allen’s 3-pointer that rimmed out with 43 seconds left.
Paul Pierce made a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left to make it a three-point game, but J.J. Redick went 4 for 4 from the line in the last 14 seconds to ice it.
Ovechkin, Crosby duel
Alex Ovechkin got his first playoff hat trick. Sidney Crosby matched him, but his was too little, too late.
Ovechkin broke open a tie game with a pair of goals less than 3 minutes apart in the third period, leading the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins and a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Ovechkin followed a one-timer from the left circle on a power play with 7:07 to play with a slap shot from between the circles with 4:38 remaining. Both times he celebrated by launching his body into the glass, the second time as red hats flooded the Verizon Center rink.
Crosby did all the scoring for the Penguins to claim the NHL’s postseason lead with eight, but it was Ovechkin who had the winning hand in the matchup of the league’s marquee rivals with his fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the playoffs.
Game 3 is Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
•Rockets take 3-0 advantage: The Kelowna Rockets are one victory away from claiming the Western Hockey League championship and finishing an amazing four-game sweep of the Calgary Hitmen.
Mark Guggenberger made 21 saves for Kelowna, and Cody Almond sealed the win by scoring into an empty net, as the Rockets defeated the visiting Hitmen 2-0 in Game 3 of the league championship series at Kelowna, British Columbia.
The Rockets now lead the best-of-7 series 3-0, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night in Kelowna.
•Swiss beat U.S. in OT: The United States got two goals from defenseman Ron Hainsey but lost to Switzerland 4-3 in overtime at the hockey world championships in Bern, Germany. The Americans will face Finland in the quarterfinals, avoiding a possible matchup with Canada by extending the game to overtime.
Switzerland was eliminated despite winning. The host nation needed a victory in regulation to advance and held the lead twice. It won 13 seconds into the extra period.
Steelers set Foote loose
The Pittsburgh Steelers released starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, a move expected since Foote asked to be traded or cut.
Foote was unhappy with coming off the field on passing downs for Lawrence Timmons, a 2007 first-round draft pick.
More for Mine That Bird
Mine That Bird was proclaimed ready for the Preakness after a spirited early morning jog, while his trainer remained groggy from two nights of little sleep after a startling Kentucky Derby victory.
“The horse will be the judge, but as good as he looked this morning, we plan on being at the Preakness,” Bennie Woolley Jr. said.
Woolley said the horse will remain at Churchill Downs in Louisville at least until May 12 before shipping to Baltimore. He jogged a mile at Churchill on Monday morning and will have light jogs each of the next two days.