Thunder defeat Mavs to clinch playoff berth
DALLAS — The Oklahoma City Thunder have transformed from doormat to dangerous playoff team.
Kevin Durant scored 23 points, Jeff Green added 22 and the Thunder clinched a playoff spot with a 121-116 victory over the Dallas Mavericks last night.
Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison added 17 points each to help the Thunder end a nine-game road losing streak against the Mavericks dating to when the team was based in Seattle.
Oklahoma City missed the playoffs last season after relocating from Seattle. The Thunder are the NBA's most improved team this season, more than doubling their 23 victories in 2008-09.
"It's a great feeling, but I've been impressed with our guys' work ethic all year long and I know that's not going to change," coach Scott Brooks said.
The Thunder's young players didn't do any postgame celebrating. Their explanation? They have a home game today against Minnesota, which has the worst record in the Western Conference.
"It's cool to celebrate after the game but we've got a quick turnaround ... so we've got to come out there and produce," Durant said. "Maybe on our day off we'll celebrate."
Durant led the way on both ends of the floor, matching a career high with five steals and chipping in five rebounds and five assists.
Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 13 rebounds for Dallas, and Jason Kidd added 24 points in the matchup of possible playoff opponents.
"They play hard," said Dallas' Jason Terry, who went 2 for 10 from the field, 0 for 6 from 3-point range, and finished with four points. "We might see them again in the playoffs. Who knows?"
The Mavericks are 5-6 since ending a season-best 13-game winning streak, a slump that has been rooted on the defensive end.
"When we won 13 in a row, the defense was much better," Mavericks center Brendan Haywood said. "We have to improve our intensity on defense."
The Thunder expanded an eight-point halftime lead to 13 in the third quarter, and took a 94-85 edge into the final quarter. Dallas got as close as four twice, the last with 57 seconds left.
RAPTORS 128, SIXERS 123
PHILADELPHIA — Chris Bosh had 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Toronto blew a 17-point, third-quarter lead before rallying in overtime to defeat Philadelphia.
The score was tied at 122 before Bosh's layup moved the Raptors ahead. After Sam Dalembert missed a free throw, Bosh drilled a bank shot to extend Toronto's lead to 126-123. Jarrett Jack's free throws with 14 seconds remaining clinched the victory.
HAWKS 91, PISTONS 85
ATLANTA — Jamal Crawford scored 29 points, Al Horford added 20 points and 14 rebounds and Atlanta held off Detroit for its 10th straight home victory.
The Hawks, who never trailed after Zaza Pachulia's tip-in made it 76-74 with 11:13 remaining, handed Detroit its 11th straight loss, the Pistons' worst run since dropping 13 in a row Dec. 15-Jan. 11.
NETS 115, HORNETS 87
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rookie Terrence Williams had 14 points and a career-high 14 assists, and New Jersey posted its biggest win of the season with a rout of New Orleans.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 17 points, and Chris Humphries had 10 points and rebounds as New Jersey (11-65) shot a season-high 58.2 percent in sending the Hornets to their third straight loss and 11th in 14 games.
HEAT 97, TIMBERWOLVES 84
MINNEAPOLIS — Dwyane Wade scored 39 points and Quentin Richardson added 14 as Miami beat Minnesota for its eighth straight victory.
Wade hit a wide-open 3-pointer at the top of the key to put Miami up 86-76 with 5:33 to play. The Wolves never seriously threatened after that in their attempt to win consecutive games after snapping a 16-game losing streak.
BULLS 96, BOBCATS 88
CHICAGO — Derrick Rose scored 26 points, Kirk Hinrich added 24 and Chicago beat Charlotte to boost its playoff hopes.
Trailing by six midway through the fourth after building a 13-point lead in the first half, the Bulls went on a 16-3 run for a 92-85 lead to remain 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Toronto in the Eastern Conference.
NUGGETS 98, CLIPPERS 90
DENVER — Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points and Denver overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Los Angeles to improve to 50-27, the Nuggets' third consecutive 50-win season.
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Nuggets pulled into a tie with Utah for first place in the Northwest Division, along with tying the Jazz, Dallas and Phoenix for the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
BUCKS 107, SUNS 98
MILWAUKEE — Brandon Jennings scored 23 points as Milwaukee ended Phoenix's 10-game winning streak, but might be without center Andrew Bogut, who sustained an elbow injury.
Bogut, Milwaukee's leading scorer and rebounder, was taken to the hospital for tests after hurting his right elbow during a dunk in the second quarter. Bogut hung on the rim then crashed to the floor, awkwardly twisting his arm.
TRAIL BLAZERS 98, KINGS 87
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Brandon Roy scored 24 points, Andre Miller added 23 and Portland rebounded from a road loss at Denver on Thursday night for its 10th victory in 12 games.
Beno Udrih led the Kings with 22 points, Jason Thompson added 18, and Carl Landry had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Kings, coming off a five-game trip, have lost seven straight.