Dallas seals playoff berth with win over Suns
DALLAS (AP) — Dallas booked its place in the NBA playoffs with a 101-98 come-from-behind home win over Phoenix on Saturday, with Monta Ellis matching his season high of 37 points.
On a day when the playoff picture became clearer, Atlanta sealed the final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference with a comfortable win over Miami, Houston maintained its hold on fourth in the West by beating New Orleans, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat Sacramento to equal a franchise record for wins in a season.
Dallas’ Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki — who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second-half rally — brought the Mavericks back by hitting five 3-pointers between them in less than 4 minutes of the third quarter, erasing most of a 13-point deficit. Then, they teamed to get the lead back in the fourth, and Dallas held on in the final minutes.
The Mavericks left the Suns and Memphis to battle for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dallas is back in the postseason after a 12-year playoff streak ended last season.
Eric Bledsoe led Phoenix with 29 points.
Atlanta took the final playoff spot in the East — ahead of New York — by winning 98-85 at home against Miami.
Jeff Teague scored 25 points and Lou Williams had 18 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including the Hawks’ last 12 points.
LeBron James finished with 27 points for the two-time defending champion Heat, who have lost three of four and gave up the ground they gained in the standings by beating Indiana on Friday and taking a half a game lead over the Pacers.
Miami and Indiana are now tied atop the Eastern Conference with 54-26 records.
Houston rallied past New Orleans for a 111-104 win, with James Harden having 33 points and 13 assists.
The Rockets got a boost from the return of Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, who had both missed the previous eight games with injuries. Beverley scored 20 points and Howard had 13.
Luke Babbitt, who was signed by the Pelicans in February after playing 18 games in Russia this season, had a career-high 24 points but New Orleans still dropped its eighth straight.
The Clippers tied the franchise record of 56 regular-season wins by defeating Sacramento 117-101, with Blake Griffin scoring 27 points.
DeAndre Jordan added 21 for Los Angeles, which also broke the franchise record for most home wins in a season at 33.
Los Angeles completed a season sweep of the Kings and has won seven straight against them at home.
DeMarcus Cousins had his seventh-straight double-double with 32 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost seven-straight road games against the Clippers.
An undermanned Denver came from behind to beat Utah 101-94, with Kenneth Faried scoring 24 points and pulling down 21 rebounds.
Charlotte made it six wins from seven games by downing Philadelphia 111-105, as Al Jefferson continued his dominating play with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
Washington moved closer to sealing sixth place in the East by beating Milwaukee 104-91, with Bradley Beal scoring 26 points.
Boston shook off the absence of some key players by winning 111-99 at Cleveland, ending a run of 13 successive road losses thanks in part to rookie Kelly Olynyk’s career high of 25 points.