Lakers 104, Hornets 96
With the score tied and one quarter remaining, the Los Angeles Lakers faced perhaps their must crucial 12 minutes of the season against a pesky New Orleans Hornets squad. Naturally, it was Kobe Bryant who saved the day, scoring 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers pulled out a 104-96 win to reclaim sole possession of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Bryant struggled for most of the game, managing just four points in the first half and seven in the first three quarters. But he came alive in the fourth, scoring the Lakers' first 14 points of the quarter. The Hornets (27-51) hung tough and had the score tied at 84-84 midway through the final frame, but a mini 5-0 spurt by Antawn Jamison helped provide Los Angeles all the breathing room they would need.
In addition to Bryant's 30, Pau Gasol played one of his best games of the season, scoring 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting while pulling down 11 rebounds and handing out four assists. Dwight Howard added 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Lakers (41-37) shot 50.6 percent from the field.
Eric Gordon had 22 points, including 13 in the second quarter as the Hornets jumped out to a five-point lead at the break. Anthony Davis also had a strong game, putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds in defeat.
Knicks 120, Wizards 99
Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks' hot streak continued against the Washington Wizards, with Anthony scoring 36 points and the Knicks making 20 threes in a 120-99 victory. The win was New York's 13th straight and it gave them their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years.
Anthony's 36 points made him the first Knick since Bernard King to score 35 points in five straight games. Anthony made 13-of-21 shots and 3-of-4 from three-point land, and he also added eight rebounds and six assists. Of his points, 21 came in the third quarter, as New York (51-26) scored 37 points to open up a 24-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Knicks came out of the gates scorching hot, scoring 36 points in the first quarter thanks to nine three-pointers. New York finished the game shooting 20-of-36 from three-point land, with Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland all pouring in four treys on the night. Shumpert finished with 18 points and four rebounds in one his best performances since returning from a torn ACL.
On the bright side for the Wizards (29-49), John Wall did put up 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Wall has been superb of late, averaging 26.6 points in his last five games.
Thunder 90, Jazz 80
The Utah Jazz were able to hold down the high-powered Oklahoma City Thunder for much of the night, but they were not able to do much scoring of their own in a 90-80 loss. The defeat and the subsequent Lakers victory later in the night has the Jazz a half game out of the No. 8 seed in the West.
Russell Westbrook had 25 points and Kevin Durant nearly notched a triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. The Thunder led by 10 at halftime and were never really threatened in the second half.
Mo Williams had 19 points to lead Utah. The Jazz shot just 39.2 percent from the field and made only 7-of-25 from three-point range. Committing 17 turnovers also contributed to the loss.
Rockets 101, Suns 98
In one of the most bizarre endings in recent memory, the Houston Rockets beat the Phoenix Suns, 101-98, when Jermaine O'Neal engaged his "Tank Mode" and committed a defensive basket interference on a missed James Harden three at the buzzer. The win clinched a playoff berth for the Rockets (44-34).
Harden led Houston with 33 points. On the final play, his heave at the buzzer bricked off the back of the rim and bounced high into the air, and it looked like the game was headed for overtime. But O'Neal grabbed the net with the ball on its way back down, making it an obvious infraction. Omer Asik tied a career-high with 22 rebounds in the victory.
Luis Scola had 28 points for the Suns (23-55) in the losing effort. The loss was Phoenix's 10th straight as it continues to hold on to the third-worst record in the NBA.
Pacers 99, Cavaliers 94
The Suns' tanking effort was not the only successful one of the night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers collapsed in epic fashion in a 99-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Cavs (24-53) led by 20 heading into the fourth quarter, but a 17-0 Pacers run turned the game around. Indiana (49-29) went ahead for good on a Paul George three with 29.9 seconds left.
Warriors 105, Timberwolves 89
The Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to run away from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 105-89 victory. Klay Thompson had 30 points and Stephen Curry added 24 points and 10 assists as the Warriors (45-33) clinched their second playoff berth in the last 19 years.
Heat 94, Bucks 83
In a likely playoff preview, the Miami Heat easily dispatched the Milwaukee Bucks, 94-83, despite not having the services of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron James had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in just 30 minutes of action. The Heat (61-16) surprisingly dominated the glass, snaring 14 offensive rebounds in the process.
Brandon Jennings was the only Bucks player to reach double figures, scoring 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting. The rest of the team shot just 39.0 percent from the field. Milwaukee has lost three of its last four games.
Nets 104, 76ers 83
Brook Lopez had 29 points and 11 rebounds and Reggie Evans had 17 points and 24 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets pounded the Philadelphia 76ers, 104-83. The Nets (45-32) nearly doubled up the Sixers (31-46) on the backboards, winning the rebounding battle, 67-34. Brooklyn finished with 24 offensive rebounds and 25 second-chance points.
Nick Young had 18 points off the bench to lead Philadelphia. The Sixers fell behind big early and never recovered, shooting just 37.5 percent on the night.
Raptors 101, Bulls 98
The Toronto Raptors survived a late flurry from the Chicago Bulls to grab a 101-98 victory on the road. The Raptors (30-48) led the entire game and took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls (42-35) got back to within two in the final minute before falling just short. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 20 points.
The loss spoiled a career night for Jimmy Butler, who took advantage of the absences of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to pour in a career-high 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting. The Bulls lost despite making 10-of-17 from deep.
Grizzlies 94, Bobcats 75
Mike Conley scored 20 points to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 94-75 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Grizzlies (53-25) let the Bobcats (18-60) hang around for much of the game, but a 15-0 run early in the fourth quarter ended all chances for an upset.
Kemba Walker had 19 points in the loss. Charlotte shot just 37.5 percent overall and 2-of-14 from three-point land.