Derrick Rose returned to the lineup to help the Chicago Bulls beat the Dallas Mavericks 93-83 on Saturday and increase their lead over the Miami Heat in the race for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Rose, who had missed three games with a foot/ankle injury, contributed 11 points and eight assists as the Bulls took a two-and-a-half game lead over the Heat with two games left in their schedule.
The Heat were surprised 86-84 by the visiting Washington Wizards on a last-second field goal.
Miami paid the price for resting LeBron James and Chris Bosh, while Dwyane Wade left after three minutes with a dislocated left index finger.
In Chicago, Loul Deng scored 22 points and Richard Hamilton 19 for the Bulls, who held defending champion Dallas to just eight points in the first quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 17 points for Dallas. Rodrigue Beaubois added 16 as he started for Jason Kidd, who along with Jason Terry sat out the game to rest as the Texan side prepare for the playoffs.
Elsewhere, the Denver Nuggets clinched a Western Conference playoff spot with a 118-107 road victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Ty Lawson sparked the Nuggets with 29 points, making all five three-point attempts, and 10 assists.
Shannon Brown topped Phoenix with 28 points and Steve Nash collected 13 assists to pass Oscar Robertson for fifth place on the NBA all-time list.
For the Suns to make the postseason, they must win at Utah tomorrow and defeat the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
76ERS 109, PACERS 106, OT
In Indianapolis, Philadelphia edged closer to clinching a playoff spot by beating Indiana in overtime, ending the Pacers’ seven-game winning streak.
Elton Brand scored 20 points and Lou Williams added 19 for the 76ers, who need win only one of their remaining three games, or have Milwaukee lose one, in order to clinch a playoff berth.
David West had a season-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Indiana, who missed a chance to lock up the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
JAZZ 117, MAGIC 107, OT
In Salt Lake City, Utah firmed up its hold on the last playoff spot in the Western Conference by beating Orlando in overtime.
The Jazz moved a game ahead of Phoenix for the eighth and final spot, but the two teams meet tomorrow and the Suns hold the advantage in the tiebreaker.
Devin Harris scored 21 points and had a key block that forced overtime, with the Jazz having recovered from a 14-point deficit in the first half.
The Magic dropped their first game since All-Star center Dwight Howard’s back surgery.
Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 23 points, including three 3-pointers, but had his shot blocked at the end of regulation.
NUGGETS 118, SUNS 107
In Phoenix, Denver clinched a playoff berth by defeating Phoenix.
Ty Lawson went 5 of 5 on 3-pointers and had 29 points and 10 assists for the Nuggets.
Steve Nash of the Suns had 13 assists, nine in the first quarter, and passed Oscar Robertson into fifth place on the NBA’s career list.
Shannon Brown scored 28 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers, for Phoenix, which lost Channing Frye to a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
GRIZZLIES 93, TRAIL BLAZERS 89
In Memphis, Rudy Gay scored 21 points and had a key block in the final seconds as playoff-bound Memphis edged Portland and won its fourth straight.
Gay, who was nine of 16 from the field, blocked Wesley Matthews’ 3-point attempt with about 5 seconds left to seal the win and send the undermanned Blazers to their fifth straight loss.
O.J. Mayo scored 14 points for Memphis. J.J. Hickson scored 23 points to lead Portland.
ROCKETS 99, WARRIORS 96
In Houston, the hosts ended a six-game losing skid by edging Golden State.
Courtney Lee scored 20 points and Goran Dragic added 18 points and seven assists for the Rockets, who remained a game behind Utah for the final playoff spot in the West.
Klay Thompson scored 24 points for the Warriors, who have lost eight straight.
BUCKS 106, NETS 95
In Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings scored 30 points to lead Milwaukee to a victory over New Jersey that kept the Bucks’ slim playoff hopes alive.
Jennings, who hit three straight 3-pointers late in the game, was nine of 18 from the field and finished with six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Ersan Ilyasova added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Bucks, who beat New Jersey for the 11th straight time.
Gerald Wallace finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets.