NBA scores: Lakers in playoff picture, Heat win 18th straight

USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers are in the playoff picture thanks to a win over the Bulls, while the Heat smacked around the Pacers for their 18th win in a row.

Lakers 90, Bulls 81

Just about a month ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were in disarray, and it looked like any chance of making the playoffs was somewhat of a long shot. But thanks to the Lakers' 90-81 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center, they now hold sole possession of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Dwight Howard looked like the dominant Dwight Howard we have grown accustomed to in recent years, scoring 16 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and swatting away four shots. And while Kobe Bryant did not put up ridiculous scoring numbers like he has of late, he played a very complete game, putting up 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

This one got off to a sluggish start, and the Lakers (33-31) led just 44-40 at halftime. But Steve Nash helped spark a third quarter run as Los Angeles built an 18-point lead. The Bulls (35-28) were able to get the deficit under double-digits, but they never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Chicago struggled offensively all game long as they continue to wait on a possible return of Derrick Rose. Aside from Rose, the Bulls were also without Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton and Taj Gibson, leading to heavy minutes for all the starters. Chicago shot just 37.1 percent from the field, with starters Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Marco Belinelli combining to go 14-of-46.

Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson were the only Bulls to play relatively well, with Noah holding his own against Howard with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Robinson had 19 points and eight assists.

Heat 105, Pacers 91

LeBron James looked like a mere mortal against the Indiana Pacers, scoring a season-low 13 points. Which is what makes the Miami Heat's 105-91 dismantling of the Pacers even more scary, as it showed they can handle excellent competition even when James is not on top of his game. The win was the Heat's 18th in a row.

Chris Bosh had 24 points and Dwyane Wade had 23 points to pick up the slack, but it was Mario Chalmers' 26 points that was arguably the biggest contribution of the night for Miami (47-14). Chalmers was unconscious from the field, shooting 7-of-9 overall and 5-of-6 from three-point land. The Heat shot 55.9 percent for the game.

Miami came out firing almost from the get-go, opening a 10-point lead in the first quarter and holding that same 10-point lead at the break. The lead ballooned to 23 late in the third quarter before Indiana (39-24) cut it down to 12, but it never got any close than that.

David West had 24 points to lead the Pacers. Paul George had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists, but he shot just 2-of-11 from the field and committed five turnovers.

Thunder 91, Celtics 79

Kevin Durant scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder won their fifth straight game by beating the Boston Celtics 91-79 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Like both teams in general, Durant was not all that sharp, going just 6-of-16 from the field. But he made up for his poor shooting night by making 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Russell Westbrook added 15 points and had just two assists in a rather quiet game for the Thunder (47-16) star.

Paul Pierce had 20 points for the Celtics (34-28), who trailed by just five heading into the fourth quarter before fading in the final frame. Kevin Garnett had a double-double, but shot just 5-of-19.

Raptors 100, Cavaliers 96

The Toronto Raptors overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-96. Alan Anderson had 18 points off the bench to lead the Raptors (25-39), who were playing without Rudy Gay. Amir Johnson also had a huge game, scoring 17 points and pulling down 16 rebounds.

Adding injury to insult for the Cavs (21-42), Kyrie Irving left the game with a shoulder injury. The injury was diagnosed as a shoulder contusion and it's looking likely that he will miss some time. Dion Waiters led Cleveland with 21 points.

Clippers 129, Pistons 97

Blake Griffin had 22 points and Chris Paul had 20 points and 14 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers destroyed the Detroit Pistons, 129-97. The Clippers (45-20) shot a scorching 62.5 percent and made 14-of-28 three-pointers. And speaking of destroying, DeAndre Jordan obliterated Brandon Knight on a ferocious slam in the second quarter.

There was not much good for the Pistons (23-42) on the evening, other than a couple of solid performances from Jose Calderon and Jonas Jerebko. Calderon had 18 points and Jerebko had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Magic 99, 76ers 91

Nikola Vucevic continues to haunt his former team, putting up 14 points and 17 rebounds in the Orlando Magic's 99-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Jameer Nelson also put forth a great effort in the Magic (18-46) win, scoring 24 points and handing out 10 dimes.

Thaddeus Young had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers (23-39), who crumbled in the fourth quarter. Jrue Holiday's shooting woes continued, as his 4-of-16 shooting night makes him 20 for his last 75 in his last five games.

Bucks 115, Kings 113

Despite playing without Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and J.J. Redick due to injury, the Milwaukee Bucks were able to hold off the Sacramento Kings, 115-113. Monta Ellis and 29 points and nine assists to lead the Bucks (32-29), who withstood a furious Kings (22-43) rally in the final couple of minutes.

DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds despite being ejected in the third quarter for an elbow to the head of Mike Dunleavy. Tyreke Evans had 20 points, and along with Jimmer Fredette, helped stage the late charge that fell just short.

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 77

The Dallas Mavericks had zero problems dispatching the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning 100-77 in a game that was never really all that competitive. Vince Carter led the Mavs (29-33) with 22 points off the bench, while Dirk Nowitzki added 16 points and nine rebounds.

The Timberwolves (21-39) have lost eight of nine as they limp toward the end of the season with a depleted roster. Derrick Williams had 17 points and nine rebounds in the defeat.

Hornets 98, Trail Blazers 96

Ryan Anderson's and-1 layup with 1.8 seconds to go lifted the New Orleans Hornets past the Portland Trail Blazers, 98-96. Moments earlier, Anderson hit a three to give the Hornets (22-42) a lead before Damian Lillard momentarily took it right back with a three of his own. Anderson and Greivis Vasquez had 20 points apiece to lead New Orleans.

Lillard finished the game with 20 points. Wesley Matthews led the Blazers (29-33) with 24 points, with 14 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

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