Thursday, April 3, 2003

NBA Games

Hornets, Blazers make playoffs

The Associated Press

New Orleans has its first NBA playoff team. The Hornets, who moved from Charlotte to New Orleans this season, secured a playoff berth Wednesday night with a 106-97 victory over New Jersey. Coupled with Washington's 105-99 home loss to Sacramento, New Orleans cruised in.

Portland also wrapped up a playoff spot, and didn't even need to take the court to do it. Houston fell 106-99 at Milwaukee, and that was enough for the Blazers to secure their 21st consecutive postseason spot, the NBA's longest current streak.

Elsewhere Wednesday night, it was Philadelphia 108, Chicago 101; Minnesota 91, Seattle 86; Toronto 89, Detroit 78; San Antonio 105, Memphis 87; Indiana 103, Cleveland 82; Boston 90, Miami 62; and New York 83, Denver 75.

The Hornets locked up their fourth straight playoff berth. Jamal Mashburn scored 24 points, and Baron Davis and George Lynch each added 19. The Jazz, who played in New Orleans for five seasons, never got into the playoffs.

"This was a key win tonight," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "Not just because we clinched a playoff berth, but because we might meet this team in the playoffs."

If so, the Hornets could be short-handed. Guard Baron Davis, who returned to the lineup March 11 after missing 20 games following surgery on his left knee, twisted the knee and left late in the third quarter. Silas said after the game it was too early to know how bad Davis' injury was.

New Orleans is fifth in the Eastern Conference.

"It takes some pressure off us," Lynch said. "But we can't look at it like that. We've got to try to improve each game now."

Kings 105, Wizards 99

At Washington, Chris Webber had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists against his former team as Sacramento reduced its magic number to one to clinch the Pacific Division.

Jerry Stackhouse scored 27 points for Washington. Michael Jordan, playing almost nonstop in his bid to get to the playoffs one last time, scored 17 points and played 33 of the first 34 minutes and 42 minutes total. The Wizards sank to a season-low six games under .500 and two games behind Milwaukee for the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The Kings have won eight of nine and are 3-1 on their six-game East Coast trip.

Bucks 106, Rockets 99

At Milwaukee, Sam Cassell scored 20 points as the Bucks erased a 13-point deficit. Gary Payton and Toni Kukoc each scored 18 points for Milwaukee.

Houston has lost four of five and is 11/2 games behind Phoenix for the West's eighth playoff spot. Yao Ming had 15 points and six rebounds for Houston.

76ers 108, Bulls 101

At Philadelphia, Allen Iverson had 24 points and a season-high 12 assists. Kenny Thomas added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, 20-5 since the All-Star break and within a half-game of first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

Jay Williams scored 23 points for Chicago, 3-36 on the road.

Spurs 105, Grizzlies 87

At Memphis, Tenn., Tim Duncan had 33 points and 19 rebounds for San Antonio. Duncan connected on 13 of 16 shots from the field as the Spurs won their seventh straight game.

Memphis, meanwhile, has lost seven of its last eight. Lorenzen Wright led Memphis with 24 points.

Timberwolves 91, SuperSonics 86

At Minneapolis, Troy Hudson scored 31 points and Kevin Garnett added 20. Hudson, Minnesota's streaky point guard, fell three points short of his career high.

The Wolves, who snapped a three-game losing streak, also played tight defense on Ray Allen, holding the Seattle guard to a quiet 19 points.

The Sonics fell three games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the West.

Celtics 90, Heat 62

At Boston, Paul Pierce scored 28 points and the Heat tied their lowest-scoring game of the season.

The Heat, the NBA's second-lowest scoring team, had fewer than 70 points for the eighth time this season.

It was the Celtics' third straight victory after a six-game losing streak. But they beat two of the NBA's worst teams - Cleveland twice and Miami.

Raptors 89, Pistons 78

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Vince Carter scored 18 points and Jerome Williams had 11 points and 16 rebounds as Toronto ended a seven-game road losing streak.

The win let Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens put off breaking Bill Fitch's NBA record of 1,106 coaching losses. Wilkens, who set the record for wins in 1995, tied Fitch's mark on Tuesday night in a home loss to the Pistons.

Pacers 103, Cavaliers 82

At Cleveland, Al Harrington, subbing for Jermaine O'Neal (sprained ankle) scored 24 points, and Ron Artest was up to his usual antics for Indiana.

Artest, fined and suspended several times this season for bad behavior, kept things lively during the fourth quarter. He shoved Ricky Davis out of bounds and was assessed a technical foul for arguing. Artest continued to protest, and when teammate Austin Croshere stepped in to stop him, Artest pushed him and then knocked away Indiana coach Isiah Thomas' arm.

On Indiana's next possession, Cavs forward Jumaine Jones was ejected. As Jones was leaving the floor, Artest, apparently upset that someone had thrown something at him, directed an obscene gesture toward the crowd.

Knicks 83, Nuggets 75

At Denver, Allan Houston had 27 points and Latrell Sprewell added 16. New York ended a three-game losing streak to remain 31/2 games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with seven games left.

Juwan Howard led the Nuggets with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

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