Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 47 points as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled closer to a playoff berth with a 113-106 victory over the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
The Lakers moved a game up on the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Portland, missing the playoffs for the second straight season, have lost nine straight, the most since an 11-game skid in the 2005-2006 season. Rookie Damian Lillard led the Blazers with a career-high 38 points.
Pau Gasol had 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, while Dwight Howard added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Bryant was 18 of 18 from the free-throw line.
HEAT 103, WIZARDS 98
In Washington, Ray Allen scored 23 points, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade chilled at the end of the bench as Miami’s B-squad gave the resting A-team the gift of home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, clinching the best record in the NBA.
With James (right hamstring) and Wade (sprained ankle and bruised knee) looking like two guys sitting at a bus stop, and Chris Bosh at home with flu-like symptoms, plus Udonis Haslem getting the night off because of a sore right ankle, the what-was-left-over of the Heat committed 25 turnovers, but still managed the win that assured they will finish better than the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat, who have won four straight, also set a franchise record for victories with 62, moving one ahead of the 1996-1997 team. They also improved to 14-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.
A.J. Price tied a career high with 23 points, while John Wall had 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards.
NUGGETS 96, SPURS 86
In Denver, Colorado, Wilson Chandler scored 29 points, while Corey Brewer had 28 as Denver overcame a slow start to post their franchise-record 21st straight home win.
The Nuggets (54-24) also tied their franchise record for victories in an NBA season, with four games remaining, including two at home, where they improved to a league-best 36-3.
Andre Iguodala recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who have not lost at home since Jan. 18 against Washington. They broke the old mark of 20 straight home wins set by Doug Moe’s 1984-1985 team.
NETS 101, CELTICS 9
In Boston, Deron Williams had 29 points and 12 assists to lead Brooklyn over Boston.
Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Joe Johnson added 20 for Brooklyn, who won for the 12th time in 18 games overall and beat the Celtics for the third time in four meetings this season.
The Nets moved closer to wrapping up fourth place in the Eastern Conference and clinching home-court advantage in the first round. Brooklyn own a 3.5-game edge over idle Chicago with four games left to play in the regular season.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 23 points, Jeff Green added 11, while Kevin Garnett had 11 points and eight rebounds in his second game back after missing the previous eight with an inflamed left ankle.
SUNS 102, MAVERICKS 91
In Dallas, P.J. Tucker scored 17 points, including two key baskets in the closing minutes, as Phoenix helped eliminate Dallas from post-season contention for the first time since 2000.
The Suns blew a 14-point lead in the second quarter and almost did it again in the fourth, before hanging on to snap a 10-game losing streak that was their longest in 16 years.