Jeremy Lin was among Houston’s top scorers as the Rockets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 98-81 on Saturday to firm their grip on seventh place in the NBA Western Conference playoff race.
After losing two games in the absence of injured top scorer James Harden, the Rockets managed to win without their shooting guard, with Lin, Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia scoring 15 points apiece.
Elsewhere, Oklahoma City moved with two games of San Antonio for the West lead by beating Milwaukee, and Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers both won to stay locked together in the fight for the last West playoff spot
Dirk Nowitzki hit a last-gasp three-pointer to lift Dallas over Chicago, Memphis downed Minnesota to overtake the Clippers, and Golden State closed in on a playoff berth by beating Portland.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in the Thunder’s 109-99 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Durant shot 10 of 19 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free throw line to stay on pace to join Larry Bird in 1986-1987 as the only players to average more than 28 points while shooting more than 50 percent from the field, 90 percent from the line and 40 percent from three-point range.
Westbrook had 23 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds.
Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova had 29 points and 14 rebounds for Milwaukee.
Utah’s Randy Foye scored 26 points, tying a career high with eight three-pointers, as the Jazz downed the Brooklyn Nets 116-107.
The victory was the fourth straight for Utah, who hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers if the two teams remain on identical win-loss records.
Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 27 points, while former Utah player Deron Williams had 21 on 6-of-14 shooting, with 11 assists.
The Lakers kept pace with a 103-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Kobe Bryant scored 19 points and tied a season high with 14 assists despite a nagging left foot injury.
Bryant added nine rebounds and instigated the Lakers’ play after Steve Nash exited early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Bryant also passed Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points) for fourth on the NBA’s career scoring list.
Dwight Howard added 24 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, who host 10th-place Dallas in a critical match tomorrow.
Tyreke Evans had 21 points and nine rebounds for Sacramento.
The Mavericks stayed 1-1/2 games behind Utah and the Lakers thanks to Nowitzki’s 3 with only 2.9 seconds on the clock, giving Dallas a 100-98 win over the Chicago Bulls.
The Mavericks trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter, but Nowitzki scored Dallas’ last eight points in a closing 15-1 run over the final three-and-a-half minutes of the game. He finished with a season-high 35 points.
Chicago’s Nate Robinson missed a jump shot at the buzzer that would have tied it. He scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Memphis’ Marc Gasol scored 21 points as the Grizzlies beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-86, pulling away in the final quarter.
Mike Conley scored 19 for the Grizzlies, who ended a five-game road losing streak with their 11th straight victory over Minnesota.
Ricky Rubio just missed his second career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Timberwolves.
Golden State moved a step closer to ending a five-year playoff absence, staying 1-1/2 games clear in sixth in the West after a 125-98 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Stephen Curry scored 39 points and Carl Landry had a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds coming off the bench for the Warriors.
Meyers Leonard led the Trail Blazers with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana’s Paul George scored 25 points to lead all five Indiana starters in double figures as the Pacers won their fourth straight with a 112-104 victory at the Phoenix Suns.
Atlanta’s Ivan Johnson scored a season-high 21 points off the bench as the Hawks pulled away to beat the Orlando Magic 97-88.
Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday scored 10 straight points late in the game to guide the 76ers to a 100-92 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Additional reporting by staff writer