Harden, Paul lead Rockets to rout of Clippers
LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul added 29 points, and the Houston Rockets routed the Los Angeles Clippers 135-103 on Wednesday night in a potential playoff preview.
Clint Capela had 24 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets win their fourth in a row. They showed little fatigue in cruising past the NBA’s hottest team while playing their last back-to-back of the season.
The Rockets currently own the third seed in the Western Conference and the Clippers are sixth, which would pair them in the first round.
Paul stunned the crowd by hitting a deep 3-pointer that beat the buzzer to end the third, in which the Rockets outscored the Clippers 34-20.
Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Clippers with 20 points and Danilo Gallinari added 16. They had won an NBA-best 13 of 15 coming in, but lost for the first time in three meetings with Houston this season.
JAZZ 118, SUNS 97
PHOENIX (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points, leading the playoff-bound Utah Jazz past the Suns.
Phoenix lost star guard Devin Booker with 4:28 left in the first quarter when he landed awkwardly on his left ankle while jumping to receive a pass. Booker sprained his left ankle and left the game with eight points.
Joe Ingles scored 15 of his 27 points in the second quarter, and Rudy Gobert had 17 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Jazz, who remained in fifth place in the Western Conference and have won 11 of 12.
Richaun Holmes’ 16 points and nine rebounds led the Suns, who have lost seven of eight.
HORNETS 115, PELICANS 109
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kemba Walker scored 21 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, and the Charlotte Hornets kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a victory over the Pelicans.
The Hornets trailed by five in the middle of the fourth when Walker’s 3 ignited a 14-6 run that put Charlotte in front for good. He hit a pair of driving layups and a second 3 during the decisive spurt.
Frank Kaminsky added 21 points and rookie Devonte Graham scored a career-high 13 points for the Hornets (36-42), who, with four games to play, sit 2½ games behind Orlando (39-40) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Julius Randle had 34 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which has dropped five of six games.
HAWKS 130, 76ERS 122
ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young had 33 points and 12 assists, John Collins added 25 points, and the Hawks handed the playoff-bound Philadelphia 76ers their second straight loss.
The Sixers began the night needing one victory and a loss by Boston to secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have dropped four of six, a stretch that began with a last-second setback at Atlanta 10 days ago.
Coming off a lackluster loss at Dallas two nights ago, the Sixers were without star center Joel Embiid for the third straight game. Forward Jimmy Butler returned from a one-game absence with back tightness and finished with 16 points.
Philadelphia, which missed 16 of 38 free throws, got 30 points from J.J. Redick and 21 from Tobias Harris. After 27 lead changes and 13 ties in the first three quarters, the Sixers never led in the fourth.
TIMBERWOLVES 110, MAVERICKS 108
DALLAS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins hit the go-ahead bucket in the final minute and the Minnesota Timberwolves turned back a fourth-quarter rally by the Mavericks.
Dallas rookie sensation Luka Doncic scored 27 points, but passed up a potential winning 3-pointer on another cold night from long range. Jalen Brunson took the pass and missed from 3 at the buzzer on a shot that would have required a replay to see if the fellow rookie got it off in time.
Dirk Nowitzki, who has just two home games remaining in what is expected to be the 40-year-old’s final season, scored nine points. The Mavericks were coming off their first two-game winning streak since early February.
NUGGETS 113, SPURS 845
DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out nine of Denver’s season-high 41 assists as the Nuggets routed the Spurs in a game in which San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was ejected after just 63 seconds.
Jamal Murray added 14 points and 11 assists for a Nuggets team that’s currently holding down the No. 2 seed in the West with four games remaining.
An irate Popovich was given two quick technicals and was sent to the locker room at 10:57 of the opening quarter. The last time a coach was ejected within the first 2 minutes of a game was Washington’s Flip Saunders on January 2, 2012, at Boston, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Saunders was ejected 1:46 into that game.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Lonnie Walker IV each had 16 points for the Spurs, who slipped into the eighth spot with the loss.
BULLS 115, WIZARDS 114
WASHINGTON (AP) — Walt Lemon Jr. scored a career-high 24 points, including two free throws with 1.8 seconds to play, to help the Chicago Bulls snap a five-game losing streak.
Lemon, in just his third game with Chicago, was one of seven Bulls in double figures in the matchup of teams whose seasons will end without a playoff appearance. JaKarr Sampson added 18 points for the Bulls.
Thomas Bryant scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Washington. Bobby Portis had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Bradley Beal added 19 points. The Wizards played their first game since Ernie Grunfeld was fired as team president after 16 seasons on Tuesday.
PACERS 108, PISTONS 89
DETROIT (AP) — Thaddeus Young scored 21 points, and the Indiana Pacers took advantage of Blake Griffin’s absence, beating the Pistons.
Griffin missed a third straight game for the Pistons, who are in the middle of a tight race for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The star forward has been dealing with left knee soreness.
Detroit came into the night in sixth place in the East, but just 1 ½ games ahead of ninth-place Orlando. The Magic gained ground with a win over New York on Wednesday.
The Pacers snapped a 10-game losing streak on the road, and they won for just the third time in their last 10 games. Bojan Bogdanovic and Myles Turner scored 17 points apiece, and Domantas Sabonis added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Andre Drummond had 28 points and 19 rebounds for the Pistons, and Wayne Ellington scored 24 points.
CELTICS 112, HEAT 102
MIAMI (AP) — Gordon Hayward scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving added 23 and the Boston Celtics pulled away in the final minutes to beat the Heat.
Al Horford scored 21 and Jayson Tatum scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Celtics, who went on a 10-2 run over a decisive three-minute late stretch. That little burst turned a two-point lead into a 10-point edge, and Boston finished off its second win over Miami in a three-night span — dealing the Heat’s playoff hopes a serious blow.
Aron Baynes had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which remained tied with Indiana for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Dion Waiters scored 21 points for Miami, which was potentially playing the next-to-last home game of Dwyane Wade’s career.
RAPTORS 115, NETS 105
NEW YORK (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 28 points and 10 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 26 points and nine boards and the Toronto Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets for their fifth straight victory.
Serge Ibaka finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors (56-23), who need to win their final three games to match last season’s franchise record for victories. Their victory prevented the Milwaukee Bucks from clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
D’Angelo Russell had 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Nets, who fell to 39-40 and missed another chance to improve their playoff situation. They came into play seventh in the East but could have moved ahead of Detroit after the Pistons fell in Indiana.
MAGIC 114, KNICKS 100
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and 13 rebounds, and Terrence Ross scored 23 points off the bench as the Magic beat the New York Knicks.
Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon had 19 points apiece for Orlando, which is chasing Miami for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Mario Hezonja scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half, and Kevin Knox had 21 points for New York, which has lost seven of eight.
TRAIL BLAZERS 116, GRIZZLIES
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Evan Turner had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists off the bench for his second consecutive triple-double and the Trail Blazers reached 50 wins.
Damian Lillard came close to a triple-double, too, with 20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, but he sat for the final quarter. Enes Kanter had 21 points and 15 rebounds for his third straight double-double.
The Blazers, now 50-28, continue to jockey for home-court advantage in the playoffs as the season winds to a close. Going into the game, Portland was holding on to fourth in the standings, two games up on the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference.
Chandler Parsons had 16 points off the bench to lead the Grizzlies (31-47), who have already been eliminated from playoff contention.