Spurs hot streak continues with win over SW rival Rockets
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio stretched its streak of double-digit victories to nine with a 110-98 win against Houston on Wednesday, leaving the top three teams in the NBA’s Southwest Division separated by just half a game as the regular season enters its last week.
The defending champion Spurs moved onto the tail of Houston and also Memphis, which drew level with the Rockets atop the division by inflicting New Orleans’ heaviest defeat of the season.
In the Eastern Conference, No.1 playoff seed Atlanta had a narrow win over a Brooklyn team that still has its postseason hopes in the balance, and Cleveland secured both the Central Division title and No.2 seed in the conference by defeating Milwaukee.
San Antonio’s Tony Parker scored 27 points and Kawhi Leonard added 20 for the Spurs who overcame a slow start to lead by as much as 22 points before easing up.
Jason Terry led Houston with 22 points, while the Rockets got only three points from James Harden over the final three quarters.
The Rockets and the Spurs meet again on Friday in a game that will be a key to determining the Southwest title.
Memphis pulled even with Houston by routing New Orleans 110-74.
Zach Randolph had 15 points and 13 rebounds while Jeff Green and Marc Gasol also each had 15 points for the Grizzlies, who rediscovered their best form after a rocky patch.
Anthony Davis scored 12 points for the Pelicans, who dropped back into a tie with Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
Atlanta completed a season sweep of Brooklyn by winning 114-111 at the Nets, with Al Horford making the go-ahead basket on a dunk with 19 seconds remaining.
Playing without injured All-Star Paul Millsap and further undermanned after Pero Antic and Thabo Sefolosha were arrested early Wednesday at the scene of a nightclub stabbing and didn’t play, the Hawks recovered after blowing a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead.
Horford scored 24 points and Mike Scott had 20 points for Atlanta, which won its third straight.
Brook Lopez had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who are level with Boston in seventh and eighth in the East.
Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving scored 27 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 104-99 victory over Milwaukee to clinch the Central.
LeBron James scored 21 points with nine rebounds and eight assists for the Cavs, including 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Michael Carter-Williams scored 30 points for the Bucks, who are sixth in the East standings but yet to clinch a playoff berth.
Dallas eliminated Phoenix for playoff contention by beating the Suns 107-104, with Dirk Nowitzki scoring 19 points, including the go-ahead basket and a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Phoenix will miss the postseason for the fifth straight season, while the Mavericks were locked into the seventh seed in the West when New Orleans lost at Memphis.
Tyson Chandler had 12 points and 23 rebounds, two off his season high, for Dallas while Gerald Green had a season-high 30 points to lead the Suns.
Toronto ended a run of six-straight losses against Charlotte by beating the Hornets 92-74.
DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points and Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez each scored 16 points for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.
Kemba Walker had 15 points for Charlotte, which is three games off eighth place in the East.
Orlando’s Victor Oladipo scored on a layup with 1.5 seconds left to give the Magic a 105-103 victory over Chicago, spoiling Derrick Rose’s return to the Bulls.
Oladipo had 23 points and Nik Vucevic added 22 in the Magic’s third straight win.
Rose started and played for the first time in more than a month since undergoing knee surgery. The point guard was 3 of 9 from the field and finished with nine points in 19 minutes.
Jimmy Butler scored 19 points for the Bulls, who had a last chance after Oladipo’s basket, but an inbounds pass from Mike Dunleavy to Pau Gasol sailed out of bounds.
Portland boosted its chances of home advantage in the playoffs by beating lowly Minnesota 116-91, with LaMarcus Aldridge contributing 24 points and 13 rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter.
Boston moved into a tie for seventh in the East, and eliminated Detroit from playoff contention, by winning 113-103 at the Pistons, thanks chiefly to Isaiah Thomas’ season-high 34 points.
Washington shot a franchise-record 65.3 percent from the field in beating Philadelphia 119-90, despite resting All-Star guard John Wall and ending his consecutive games streak at 208.
Utah’s Derrick Favors scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Jazz defeated Sacramento 103-91 in a matchup of non-playoff teams.
Indiana moved within one game of the final playoff-yielding spot in the East by beating lowly New York 102-86.
Denver’s Kenneth Faried scored a season-high 29 points and had 11 rebounds to lead the Nuggets past the Los Angeles Lakers 119-101.