Jason Kidd had 19 points, a season-high 20 assists and a major career milestone - all in just three quarters - to help Dallas to a 140-116 victory over Phoenix yesterday, virtually assuring the Mavericks of grabbing no worse than the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Dallas has a four-game lead with five games left. Because the Mavs won the season series, they hold the tiebreaker over the Suns, so Phoenix must finish 5-0 and Dallas 0-5 for the teams to trade places in the standings.
Put another way, any Mavs win or Suns loss clinches a ninth straight postseason trip for Dallas and ends a streak of four straight playoff trips for Phoenix.
Kidd's 14th assist gave him 10,142 for his career, passing Magic Johnson for No. 3 on the NBA's list. Among those who gave him a standing ovation was broadcaster Mark Jackson, who is second with 10,334.
Dirk Nowitzki made 10 of 12 shots and scored 28 points for Dallas, marking his 20th straight game with at least 20 points.
Leandro Barbosa had 24 points and Grant Hill finished with 23 for the Suns.
Cavaliers 101, Spurs 81
At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 38 points while Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece as the NBA's best home team avoided its first three-game losing streak.
Embarrassed in a 29-point loss in Orlando, a humbling defeat that came one day after a humiliating loss at lowly Washington, Cleveland played with purpose at both ends and improved to 37-1 at home. If they can win their final three home games, the Cavs would match the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (40-1) for the best home record in NBA history.
Tony Parker scored 24 for San Antonio but got no help from Manu Ginobili (four points) or Tim Duncan, who had just six and didn't score after the 2:56 mark of the first quarter.
Pistons 104, Bobcats 97
At Auburn Hills, Michigan, Will Bynum scored a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Detroit past the Charlotte Bobcats and put the Pistons a step closer to locking up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bynum scored the final 13 points for the Pistons and finished with a career-high 32 points. He made all six of his field-goal attempts and went 14-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 22 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
Knicks 112, Raptors 103
At Toronto, Wilson Chandler scored 17 points, David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds as the New York Knicks eliminated Toronto from the playoffs.
It came one day after the Knicks saw their postseason hopes end with a 102-95 home loss to the Raptors.
New York's victory snapped a nine-game losing streak in Toronto. The Knicks had not won there since March 5, 2004. Quentin Richardson added 16 points for the Knicks, who snapped a four-game losing streak and won for the first time in six tries on the road.
Chris Bosh had 31 points and 14 rebounds for Toronto, whose season-high six-game winning streak came to an end.
Jazz 108, Hornets 94
At New Orleans, Ronnie Brewer scored 23 points and the Utah Jazz completed a convincing season sweep of the New Orleans Hornets.
Deron Williams had 21 points and 11 assists for Utah, which led by 30 in the second quarter and snapped a three-game skid with its first road victory against a winning team in the Western Conference this season.
David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans.
Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 87
At Minneapolis, Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and the Denver Nuggets easily won their seventh in a row, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Nuggets extended their lead to two games over San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after the Spurs lost to Cleveland earlier in the day.
Sebastian Telfair had 18 points to lead the Wolves, who played without four of their top six scorers.
Rockets 102, Trail Blazers 88
At Houston, Yao Ming had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Houston past Portland, just hours after the Trail Blazers got their first playoff berth since 2003 when Dallas beat Phoenix.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and nine rebounds for Portland.
Nets 96, 76ers 67
East Rutherford, New Jersey, Vince Carter scored 15 points and the New Jersey Nets kept their playoff hopes alive for a couple more days by handing the Philadelphia 76ers their worst loss of the season.
The Nets (32-45) were pushed to the brink of elimination while the match was being contested when the Detroit Pistons (37-40) beat the Charlotte Hornets 104-97, but they stayed mathematically alive by getting double figures from seven players.
Warriors 105, Kings 100
At Sacramento, California, Kelenna Azubuike had 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as Golden State hung on to beat Sacramento with just seven healthy players.
Jamal Crawford had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors in their third straight victory, including two wins in five days over their closest geographical rivals.
With Monta Ellis added to a long list of injured players due to a sore ankle, Golden State dressed injured center Andris Biedrins just to have the NBA-minimum eight players in uniform. Although Sacramento trimmed Golden State's 15-point lead with 5 minutes left to 100-97 with 1:10 to play, Crawford and C.J. Watson combined to hit five free throws in the final 25 seconds.
Lakers 88, Clippers 85
At Los Angeles, Lamar Odom had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 18 points and the Los Angeles Lakers edged the Clippers to remain a game behind Cleveland for the NBA's best record.
The Lakers' 61st victory was listless against a team that trails them by 43 games in the Western Conference. But they did just enough to win their third in a row, improve to 33-5 at home and assert themselves as the dominant tenant at Staples Center.
Eric Gordon scored 24 points for the Clippers, who've lost five in a row and 12 of their last 15.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily April 6, 2009)