Nuggets win, caputure NBorthwest Division title

DENVER (AP) " J.R. Smith's career-high 45 points and franchise-best 11 3-pointers helped the Denver Nuggets clinch the Northwest Division title and home-court edge in a playoff series for the first time in 21 years with a 118-98 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.

With chants of "J.R." cascading from the rafters, Smith sank half of his 3s in the fourth quarter, when he scored 23 points.

The Nuggets (54-27) tied their franchise record for most wins since joining the NBA in 1976. They can break that mark with a victory in their regular-season finale Wednesday night at Portland.

Denver clinched at least the third seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets would secure the No. 2 seed with a win at Portland or if Houston loses at Dallas on Wednesday night.

Either way, star Carmelo Anthony finally has the home-court advantage on his side as he tries to end five straight seasons of first-round exits by the Nuggets.

Anthony had 21 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in 32 minutes against Sacramento, which was led by Ike Diogu's career-best 32 points.

Cavaliers 117, Pacers 109

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) " Cleveland clinched the NBA's best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs behind LeBron James' 37 points. Getting the home-court edge was especially important because Cleveland has a 39-1 record at home, the best in the league.

Delonte West scored 20 points, Mo Williams had 18 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which won its fifth straight.

Danny Granger scored 38 points, rookie Brandon Rush scored 27 and Troy Murphy had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana.

Raptors 97, Wizards 96

WASHINGTON (AP) " Chris Bosh made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left for the Raptors. Trailing 93-80 with 6:30 remaining, Toronto outscored Washington 17-3 to pull off the win.

Bosh, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds, converted his first 3-pointer since March 6. It was his 42nd double-double of the season, tying his 2006-07 franchise high.

Shawn Marion had 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Raptors.

Caron Butler scored 28 points and Antawn Jamison had 23 for Washington in its 62nd loss. The Wizards must win on Wednesday in Boston to avoid tying their franchise record for losses, set in 2000-01 when they were 19-63.

Nets 91, Bobcats 87

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) " Jarvis Hayes hit two late 3-pointers in a 37-second span and the Nets rallied from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

Rookie Brook Lopez added 18 points and a career-best 20 rebounds, and Vince Carter had five of his 19 points in the final 4:47 as New Jersey won its second straight, but only its fourth in 12 games. Hayes finished with 15 on 6-of-9 shooting.

Raymond Felton had 19 points for Charlotte in a game in which coach Larry Brown played four reserves with only one starter in both the second and fourth quarters, and it ended up costing the Bobcats in their third straight loss and sixth in seven games.

Bulls 91, Pistons 88

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) " Ben Gordon made a tiebreaking layup with 15 seconds left, and the Bulls locked the Pistons in the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The loss means the Pistons (39-42) will face Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago (41-40) leads Philadelphia by a half-game for sixth.

Derrick Rose scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and added a key defensive play as the Bulls overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half. Gordon added 19.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 25 points and Tayshaun Prince scored 19.

Bucks 98, Magic 80

MILWAUKEE (AP) " Richard Jefferson scored 24 points as the Bucks beat an Orlando team missing Dwight Howard and two other starters " Orlando's third straight loss to a subpar opponent.

Ramon Sessions added 19 points in the home finale for the Bucks, providing a late high note in what has otherwise been a disappointing season for Milwaukee.

Courtney Lee had 17 points for Orlando. Add in a potential wardrobe malfunction by Howard, who was not on the bench after halftime because he apparently was in violation of the NBA's dress code, and it was a rough night all around for the slumping Magic.

Orlando was coming off losses to New York and New Jersey, giving up 100-plus points to a pair of non-playoff teams. Now locked into the No. 3 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, Orlando was without starters Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis because of nagging injuries. So coach Stan Van Gundy figured it was a good time to rest Howard as well.

Rockets 86, Hornets 66

HOUSTON (AP) " Yao Ming scored 22 points, Luis Scola grabbed 15 rebounds and the Rockets moved within one win of the Southwest Division title.

If the Rockets win their regular-season finale in Dallas on Wednesday, they'll secure their first division championship since 1993-94. But in the jumbled Western Conference, Houston could also slip to fifth place " and lose home-court advantage in the first round " with a loss to the Mavericks.

The Hornets shot 35 percent (28-of-81) from the field and their 66 points were a season low. Houston also held a 46-37 rebounding edge. Mavericks 96, Timberwolves 94

DALLAS (AP) " Dirk Nowitzki keyed a late fourth-quarter rally with great plays on both ends of the court, then Jason Terry hit an 18-foot jumper from the right side with 0.2 seconds left.

Dallas wiped out a 7-point deficit with 3:13 left to avoid a horrible loss. Besides the Timberwolves being headed to the lottery, the Mavericks knew the Hornets were getting drubbed in Houston. The win keeps alive their chances of claiming the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

That spot will be settled Wednesday night in the final game of the season. Dallas and New Orleans are tied and the Hornets hold the tiebreaker, so the only way the Mavs can move up is by beating Houston and by New Orleans losing at San Antonio.

Nowitzki scored 34 points and had nine rebounds.

Jazz 106, Clippers 85

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) " Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Jazz snapped a three-game losing streak to keep alive their slim hopes of climbing out of the No. 8 seed in the West.

Utah closes the regular season Tuesday night at the top-seeded Lakers, the team the Jazz will face in the first round of the playoffs if they can't catch Dallas or New Orleans.

Deron Williams had 17 points and nine assists, and Paul Millsap finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz.

Marcus Camby had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who have lost eight of nine.

Trail Blazers 113, Thunder 83

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) " Travis Outlaw had 21 points as a last-minute starter and the Trail Blazers built a 35-point lead before defeating the Thunder. Brandon Roy had 20 points in Portland's fifth straight victory. Greg Oden had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Kevin Durant, averaging 25.5 points a game, scored just 10 for the Thunder, who have lost six of their last seven games. Rookie Russell Westbrook had 15 points and seven assists.

The Blazers, who have clinched their first postseason berth since 2002-03, are jockeying for playoff position down to the finish. They remained a game back of Denver in the Northwest Division, and Portland hosts the Nuggets in the season finale on Wednesday night.

The Blazers (53-28) have not won as many games since they went 59-23 in the 1999-2000 season.

Suns 119, Grizzlies 110

PHOENIX (AP) " Shaquille O'Neal hit four late field goals and rookie Robin Lopez tied his career high with 14 points, helping the Suns to their eighth consecutive home victory.

In winning their 45th game of the season, the Suns became only the third team in NBA history to reach that total and not earn a playoff berth.

O'Neal led Phoenix's well-balanced attack with 19 points. Hakim Warrick, who hit his first 10 field goal attempts, tying a franchise record for one game, and Rudy Gay led Memphis with 26 points each.

Overall, the Suns had seven players in double figures. Steve Nash had 18 points and 12 assists, Richardson collected 18 points, Grant Hill scored 14, Matt Barnes 12 and Leandro Barbosa 10.

Spurs 101, Warriors 72

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) " Tony Parker scored 17 points and Tim Duncan added 16 points and 13 rebounds before both stars sat out the fourth quarter, and the Spurs kept pace with Houston atop the Southwest.

Drew Gooden had 20 points and 15 rebounds in his hometown for the Spurs, who won their third straight to pull even at 53-28 with the Rockets and Portland.

If Houston and San Antonio both win their regular-season finales on Wednesday, the Rockets will win a complex tiebreaker and get the No. 3 playoff seed, while San Antonio could end up starting the postseason on the road against the Trail Blazers unless Dallas knocks off Houston.

Anthony Randolph had career highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds, and C.J. Watson added 18 points for the Warriors, who had just seven available players. Injured guard Marco Belinelli again had to dress for the game just to give Golden State the NBA-minimum eight in uniform.


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