NEW YORK (AP)James Harden had 18 points and 11 assists in his return from an 18-game absence to help the Brooklyn Nets beat the San Antonio Spurs 128-116 on Wednesday night.
Coming off the bench in an NBA game for the first time since he won the league’s Sixth Man award for Oklahoma City in 2011-12, Harden also had seven rebounds after the longest layoff of his career, missing more than a month because of a strained right hamstring.
Landry Shamet scored 21 points and Nicolas Claxton had a career-high 18 for the Nets. They won their third straight and pulled within 1 1/2 games of Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead.
Kevin Durant had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Nets played without Kyrie Irving after he left their victory in Chicago on Tuesday with a facial contusion. They still have had their three superstars play together just seven times.
But they put eight players in double figures and shot 60.8% to wrap up a league-best 22-8 record against Western Conference teams.
DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points for the Spurs. They missed a chance to secure a spot in the play-in tournament.
HAWKS 120, WIZARDS 116
ATLANTA (AP) – Trae Young scored 33 points and John Collins hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds remaining and Atlanta beat Washington to clinch its first playoff berth since 2017.
Under interim coach Nate McMillan, who should receive strong consideration in the coach of the year balloting, the Hawks have posted a 25-11 mark to stamp themselves as a dangerous opponent heading into the postseason.
Russell Westbrook had 34 points and 15 assists for Washington. Two nights after breaking Oscar Roberson’s record with his 182nd career triple-double, Westbrook came up a bit short of No. 183. He was held to five rebounds.
LAKERS 124, ROCKETS 122
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Kyle Kuzma’s driving layup with 6.9 seconds remaining helped keep short-handed Los Angeles’ slim hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament alive.
Houston had a final chance, but Kelly Olynyk had the ball stolen by Ben McLemore with 0.9 seconds remaining. Talen Horton-Tucker then hit the first free throw, but missed the second.
Horton-Tucker scored 23 points, and Andre Drummond added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso. James was ruled out for the sixth straight game due to a high right ankle sprain, while Davis (groin) and Caruso (foot) aggravated injuries during an overtime win over the Knicks on Tuesday night.
Olynyk and Armoni Brooks scored 24 apiece for the Rockets (16-54) and Kenyon Martin Jr. added 20. Houston has dropped seven straight and 44 of its last 49.
MAVERICKS 125, PELICANS 107
DALLAS (AP) – Luka Doncic scored 33 points, Kristaps Porzingis added 19 in his return from injury and Dallas beat New Orleans to take a big step toward avoiding the play-in tournament.
The Pelicans were eliminated from postseason contention while playing without four starters. Lonzo Ball was scratched with a strained right thumb, joining Zion Williamson (broken left hand), Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle) and Steven Adams (sprained toe) on the sideline.
The Mavericks can clinch at least the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a win in either of their two remaining regular-season games against a pair of eliminated teams in Toronto and Minnesota.
Eric Bledsoe and Jaxson Hayes scored 15 points apiece for the Pelicans.
TRAIL BLAZERS 105, JAZZ 98
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Damian Lillard scored 30 points and CJ McCollum added 26 to help Portland beat NBA-leading Utah.
Carmelo Anthony added 18 points for Portland. The Trail Blazers have won five straight and nine of 10 to tie Dallas for the fifth position in the Western Conference.
Jordan Clarkson scored 29 points to lead Utah. Rudy Gobert added 15 points and 20 rebounds for the Jazz. The lost their second straight game, cutting their lead over Phoenix to 1 1/2 games.
CAVALIERS 102, CELTICS 94
CLEVELAND (AP) – Kevin Love scored a season-high 30 points, Collin Sexton added 28 and Cleveland beat Boston to end an 11-game losing streak, locking the Celtics into a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.
Love made six 3-pointers, including two in an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter, and had 14 rebounds as Cleveland closed out a miserable season at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with its first win since April 21.
Jayson Tatum scored 29 points for Boston. The Celtics have lost eight of 11.
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