National Basketball Association
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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                                Sunday, March 29
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - Two teams jockeying for playoff positioning square off
 Sunday afternoon when the Houston Rockets travel to DC to face the Washington
 Wizards in a matinee.
 The Rockets have clinched a postseason berth, but are just a half-game behind
 the Memphis Grizzlies for both the Southwest Division lead and the No. 2 seed
 in the Western Conference.
 The Wizards need a victory on Sunday and losses by the Brooklyn Nets and
 Boston Celtics to clinch a playoff spot. Both teams are in action as the Nets
 host the Los Angeles Lakers and the Celtics welcome the Los Angeles Clippers
 to Boston.
 Houston has won three straight overall and three straight on the road.
 On Friday, the Rockets punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 120-110
 home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
 Houston hit a season-high 20 3-point shots, led by James Harden's six and
 Jason Terry's five. Houston has attempted 2,392 3-pointers this season,
 setting a new NBA record
 Harden paced all scorers with 33, and Terry finished with 17.
 Dwight Howard scored 18 in 20 minutes for the Rockets, and Josh Smith added 16
 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
 "My teammates found me in great spots, I just finished them off," Howard said.
 "I was out there just trying to do whatever I can ... just trying to be a
 presence on the defensive end."
 Minnesota was within seven with less than 4 1/2 minutes to play before a 9-2
 Houston spurt put the game away.
 Houston's Donatas Motiejunas sat out with a back injury and starters Patrick
 Beverley (wrist) and Terrence Jones (collapsed lung) continue to sit.
 The Rockets continue their road trip Monday in Toronto.
 The Wizards halted a four-game slide on Friday night with a home victory over
 the Charlotte Hornets. The Wiz needed two overtimes, but came out with a
 110-107 triumph.
 John Wall scored 32 points with nine rebounds and six assists to help the
 Bradley Beal had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Wizards,
 while Drew Gooden and Rasual Butler chipped in with 15 and 10 points,
 respectively, off the bench. Gooden pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds.
 Butler gave Washington a 101-99 lead with a minute left in the first overtime
 before Mo Williams tied it with a jumper. Beal, Gooden and Wall all missed
 attempts on Washington's ensuing possession, then Kemba Walker's floater at
 the buzzer was no good as the game extended an extra five minutes.
 The back-and-forth affair continued in the second overtime, with Wall giving
 the Wizards a 108-105 edge on a 3-pointer with 2:22 left. Al Jefferson knocked
 down a jumper to help the Hornets pull within one, but they would not score
 the rest of the way.
 Wall converted a jumper with 9.9 ticks on the clock to extend the margin to
 three. Williams missed a 3-pointer prior to Jefferson grabbing the rebound and
 getting fouled by Wall with 3.9 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Jefferson
 missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer as Washington held on.
 "The group I thought that kind of closed out the game gave us unbelievable
 effort," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
 The Wizards still have two more games on this homestand against the bottom of
 the Eastern Conference -- the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks.
 Washington beat the Rockets in Houston on Dec. 29 to stop a two-game series
 losing streak. The Rockets have won two of their last three stops to our
 nation's capital.
 ( - The Brooklyn Nets continue their crusade to make the
 postseason Sunday afternoon when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Barclays
 The Nets have won two in a row and trail the Boston Celtics by a half-game for
 the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics host
 the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night.
 Brooklyn has not just won two straight, but it has captured four of five and
 six of eight. After a road win in Charlotte on Wednesday, the Nets handled
 LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 106-98, on Friday in Brooklyn.
 Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez scored 20 points apiece and the reserves stepped
 up to lead the Nets.
 Brooklyn's reserves outscored their counterparts 54-20, led by Bojan
 Bogdanovic's 18 points. Jarrett Jack added 16 points and Alan Anderson scored
 13 to help the Nets snap an eight-game losing skid when LeBron James has
 suited up for the Cavaliers.
 "At this point for us, every game is important," said Johnson.
 Brooklyn opened the fourth quarter on an 11-5 run, with Jack and Bogdanovic
 each hitting a pair of field goals during the spurt. The lead was 92-89 when
 Lopez potted four straight free throws, Johnson drilled a deep 3-pointer late
 in the shot clock and Jack converted two from the stripe.
 Johnson's free throws made it 103-93 at 2:05 and gave Brooklyn the first
 double-digit lead for either team.
 Out of a timeout, the Cavaliers committed a shot-clock violation. Brooklyn
 shot 11-for-12 from the stripe over the final 5:12 to put the game away.
 Thaddeus Young is doubtful Sunday with a hyperextended left knee.
 The Lakers moved to 1-2 on their five-game road trip, which ends Monday in
 Philadelphia, thanks to a 94-83 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
 Jeremy Lin totaled 18 points and Jordan Clarkson had 14 for the Lakers, who
 have dropped six of their last eight games. They were the only double-figure
 scorers for LA, although all nine Lakers who played Friday managed at least
 six points.
 A turnaround jumper from Terrence Ross put the Raptors on top for good near
 the midway point of the third quarter and Greivis Vasquez connected from long
 distance on the next possession to make it a four-point edge at 61-57.
 Williams later converted a trey and Toronto was up 71-64, a lead which
 eventually stood at five heading into the final period.
 Wayne Ellington and Lin countered for Los Angeles to whittle the deficit down
 to six. Amir Johnson hit a bucket for Toronto ahead of one from Ed Davis, but
 it was as close as the Lakers came.
 "When our offense started to go down, so did our defense," Lakers coach Byron
 Scott said. "Our guys got down on themselves."
 The Nets have won two straight over the Lakers, halting an 11-game series
 slide. Both of Brooklyn's victories came in Los Angeles, so the Lakers have
 taken seven in a row as the visitor.
 ( - The New Orleans Pelicans press on in their bid to make
 the postseason, starting Sunday when they welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves
 to the Smoothie King Center.
 The Pelicans trail the Oklahoma City Thunder by 2 1/2 games in their bid for
 the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
 Last time out, New Orleans snapped a four-game losing streak with a 102-88
 drubbing of the Sacramento Kings in the Big Easy Friday night.
 Anthony Davis posted 24 points, nine rebounds and six blocks for the Pelicans.
 Tyreke Evans had 25 points and 10 assists and Quincy Pondexter scored 16
 points to help New Orleans to victory.
 Norris Cole scored 12 points for New Orleans and Omer Asik grabbed 12
 rebounds. The Pelicans' reserves outscored Sacramento's 29-12, and New Orleans
 did its best against DeMarcus Cousins, who still managed 39 points and 20
 "Staying with our game plan, being aggressive, we didn't let (Cousins) turn it
 into a one-on-one game," Evans said of the win.
 Rudy Gay scored seven straight Kings points after Ben McLemore put the
 visitors in front early in the third with a 3-pointer, but Pondexter drilled
 consecutive 3s at the other end to restore the Pelicans' lead.
 Evans scored twice during an 8-0 run later in the period that made it 74-63.
 The lead grew to 18 in the fourth as the Pelicans coasted to the finish line.
 The Pelicans head west starting Wednesday versus the LA Lakers, Kings and
 Portland Trail Blazers.
 The Wolves own the worst mark in the Western Conference and have dropped two
 On Friday, Minnesota fought, but fell to the Houston Rockets, 120-110, in
 The Timberwolves lost for the third time in four games despite 31 points from
 star rookie Andrew Wiggins.
 "He's had a great year," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said of Wiggins. "In
 this league, you have to have someone that can create something out of
 nothing, and that's what he can do."
 Chase Budinger added a season-high 23 points, and Gorgui Dieng finished with
 18 points and 12 boards. Zach LaVine finished with 11 points and eight
 Minnesota was within seven with less than 4 1/2 minutes to play before a 9-2
 Houston spurt put the game away.
 For the Wolves, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett are out, while Ricky Rubio
 (left ankle) and Kevin Martin (left hamstring) are questionable. Gary Neal is
 doubtful with a sprained left ankle.
 The Pelicans won both of this season's meetings and the two will collide in
 Minneapolis on April 13. New Orleans has won three in a row as the host in
 this series.
 ( - The Cleveland Cavaliers march on in their pursuit for a
 Central Division title on Sunday when the Philadelphia 76ers stop by Quicken
 Loans Arena.
 The Cavs are two games clear of the Chicago Bulls for division supremacy and
 the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
 On Friday, Cleveland had a four-game winning streak halted with a 106-98 road
 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
 Kyrie Irving paced Cleveland with 26 points, while LeBron James finished with
 24, nine assists and five steals in the setback.
 "We knew we were playing against a team that very badly needed a win," said
 Cavs coach David Blatt. "We had to play at a level that was appropriate to
 that, and we didn't reach that level."
 Brooklyn opened the fourth quarter on an 11-5 run, with Jarrett Jack and Bojan
 Bogdanovic each hitting a pair of field goals during the spurt. The lead was
 92-89 when Brook Lopez potted four straight free throws, Joe Johnson drilled a
 deep 3-pointer late in the shot clock and Jack converted two from the stripe.
 Johnson's free throws made it 103-93 at 2:05 and gave Brooklyn the first
 double-digit lead for either team.
 Out of a timeout, the Cavaliers committed a shot-clock violation. Brooklyn
 shot 11-for-12 from the stripe over the final 5:12 to put the game away.
 The Cavs begin a big three-game homestand on Sunday. The Miami Heat arrive on
 Thursday, then the Bulls come into Cleveland in one week.
 The Sixers have lost three of their last four, but at least they snapped their
 16-game road losing streak Wednesday in Denver. They returned home and lost by
 21 to the Los Angeles Clippers, 119-98.
 Nerlens Noel poured in a career-high 30 points, seven above his previous best,
 to lead the 76ers. Noel, continuing his fine month and bolstering his modest
 chances to win Rookie of the Year, added 14 rebounds, two assists and two
 steals. Ish Smith scored 18 in the loss and Luc Mbah a Moute had 13 points off
 the bench.
 The Clippers shot 54 percent from the field and 41 percent from long range.
 "We're so proud of (our defense) and we had a tough time dealing with them,"
 Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "They can do so many things. ... You have this
 menu to figure out what you can try to guard."
 Noel scored 12 of his 30 points in the second, Smith added 11 and the pair
 scored seven in a 9-0 run at the end of the half to get the Sixers within
 62-54 after they trailed by 19.
 But the Clippers pulled away in the third quarter, beginning it with an 8-0
 burst behind Paul and Blake Griffin and going up by as many as 27 points. It
 reached as high as 32 points in the fourth quarter.
 The Sixers beat the Cavaliers in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, but have lost four of
 the last five meetings. The Cavs have won three straight as the host in this
 DETROIT PISTONS (28-44) AT MIAMI HEAT (33-39), 6 P.M.
 ( - The Miami Heat hope to solidify their position in the
 Eastern Conference standings Sunday when they welcome the Detroit Pistons to
 American Airlines Arena.
 The Heat stand in seventh place, 2 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks and a
 full game in front of the Boston Celtics. The Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers
 and Charlotte Hornets are lurking on the outside of the postseason picture.
 Miami has dropped three of its last four, including a 99-86 road loss to the
 Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
 Luol Deng scored 17 points to lead the Heat, who finished 1-3 on a four-game
 road trip. Dwyane Wade (knee) returned to score 13 points, but Miami was
 without Hassan Whiteside (hand) and Chris Andersen (calf) for a second game in
 a row.
 "We're not trying to recapture anything, we are trying to get wins," Miami
 coach Erik Spoelstra said.
 The Hawks led from the start, beginning the game with a 12-3 run keyed by
 eight points from Carroll. Miami was only as close as five points after that
 and Atlanta's lead reached double digits for good with 9:33 remaining in the
 second quarter.
 The lead was as high as 26 in the third quarter and dipped only as low as 12
 in the fourth.
 Things don't get easy for the Heat. They host the world champion San Antonio
 Spurs on Tuesday, then travel to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavs
 on Thursday.
 The Pistons aren't technically out of it in the Eastern Conference. They trail
 the Celtics by four games and have won four straight and two in a row on the
 On Friday, Detroit toppled the Orlando Magic, 111-97, in Florida.
 Reggie Jackson's 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists led the Pistons.
 "We want to really tune in defensively," said Jackson. "The great teams in the
 league know sometimes you're not going to have your best night shooting, but
 if you play defense, you have a chance."
 Tayshaun Prince scored a season-high 23 points off the bench, and Andre
 Drummond added 16 points and nine rebounds.
 The Pistons started to pull away when they outscored Orlando 33-23 in the
 third quarter with 17 points from Jackson. After Anthony Tolliver's long 3
 early in the period put Detroit in front, Jackson scored 11 of the Pistons'
 next 13 points. Detroit led 87-76 after three.
 Detroit led by as many as 17 in the fourth. Jackson's jumper put the Pistons
 up 108-91, and his assist on Joel Anthony's layup with 1 1/2 minutes remaining
 secured his second triple-double of the season.
 The Pistons beat the Heat in Motown on Feb. 3 to snap a three-game losing
 streak to Miami. The Heat are 6-1 in their last seven at home versus Detroit.
 ( - The Los Angeles Clippers are in the playoffs and the
 Boston Celtics hope to be. The two teams will meet Sunday evening at TD Bank
 The Clips clinched a postseason berth with their 119-98 road victory over the
 Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
 The Celtics are eighth in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game ahead of
 the surging Brooklyn Nets, a full game in front of the Indiana Pacers and the
 Charlotte Hornets.
 LA has won six straight and owns the fourth-best record in the Western
 Conference, a half-game in front of the Portland Trail Blazers, who would
 still get home-court advantage in a first-round series against the Clippers by
 virtue of winning the Northwest Division.
 The Clippers have taken three consecutive road tilts, including the first two
 on this eastern trip, which ends Sunday. They bested the New York Knicks by
 31, then took out of the Sixers by 21.
 Chris Paul had 25 points and seven assists to lead Los Angeles. DeAndre Jordan
 added 17 points and 20 rebounds and J.J. Redick scored 19 for the Clippers
 They clinched a franchise-record fourth consecutive playoff berth.
 "Getting in (the playoffs) is the goal," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said.
 "Whoever gets in wants to win (the title)."
 The Clips led the 76ers by 15 after one, 19 at the half and pulled away in the
 third. They began the period with an 8-0 burst behind Paul and Blake Griffin
 and going up by as many as 27 points. It reached as high as 32 points in the
 fourth quarter.
 Rivers will be back in Boston where he coached the Celtics to an NBA title in
 The Celtics have won two of three to grab that eighth spot. On Friday, the
 Celtics earned a 96-92 home victory over the New York Knicks.
 Isaiah Thomas posted 18 points and six assists to lead Boston.
 Jae Crowder scored 17 points with nine rebounds, Brandon Bass had 16 points
 and 10 boards and Evan Turner finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five
 assists for the Celtics, who had lost four of five coming into the game.
 "At this point we just want to win as much as we can," said Crowder. "Whether
 we grind it out or come out on fire, as long as we get the win it doesn't
 matter how we do it."
 Turner put the C's up 11 with four minutes to play, but the Knicks were
 valiant. New York responded with the next six points to keep within striking
 distance and a 3-pointer from Langston Galloway with 25.9 seconds saw the
 Knicks back four at 92-88.
 They were unable to make it a one-possession game, though, until Jason Smith
 hit a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds to play and the Knicks were unable to get a
 shot off after Avery Bradley missed his second free throw.
 The Clippers have won three straight over the Celtics, including Rivers' first
 game back in Boston last season.
 ( - The Dallas Mavericks continue their march to the
 postseason, but they'll fight a desperate Indiana Pacers team Sunday at
 Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
 The Mavs are seventh in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the San
 Antonio Spurs. They are four clear of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
 Indiana is fighting to make the postseason. The Pacers trail the Boston
 Celtics by a game for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs, although the
 Brooklyn Nets are in between -- just a half-game back. Both Boston and
 Brooklyn are in action on Sunday.
 The Mavs started their three-game road trip with an ugly, 94-76 loss to the
 defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
 Tyson Chandler scored 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Monta Ellis added
 10 points for the Mavericks, who have dropped three of their last four. They
 were the only double-figure scorers for a Mavs team which shot 37.8 percent
 from the field and 22 percent from long range.
 The Spurs never trailed in this game and closed the first quarter with the
 final nine points as Boris Diaw's 3-pointer made it a 28-18 game going into
 the second.
 San Antonio scored the first six points of the second to build a 16-point
 lead, and the advantage reached as high as 19 before the Mavericks made a late
 run to cut their deficit to 54-41 at the break.
 "We didn't compete in the first half," Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons
 said. "We have to play for 48 minutes."
 Dallas will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
 The Pacers have lost seven of their last eight and four straight at home.
 On Thursday, Indiana fell to the Milwaukee Bucks, 111-107,
 C.J. Miles led the Pacers with 26 points and George Hill chipped in with 24.
 The Pacers, who trailed by as many as 23 in the first half, continued to chip
 away at the deficit. Hill buried three straight 3-pointers to help Indiana cut
 the margin to 94-92 with 5:42 remaining, but Milwaukee's Michael Carter-
 Williams answered at the other end with a three-point play. Carter-Williams
 then assisted on Khris Middleton's trey that stretched the advantage back to
 eight with under five minutes to play.
 Roy Hibbert netted a jumper with 19.9 seconds left to close within two before
 Giannis Antetokounmpo split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to
 110-107. Hill dribbled out the clock and got a decent look at a tying 3-
 pointer, but it rimmed out and the Bucks held on.
 "I'm proud of our fight and trying to get back into it, but we can't start out
 that way," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
 The Pacers have won four of the last six meetings between the two teams, who
 have split the last six encounters in Indianapolis.
 ( - Two Western Conference powers collide Sunday night when
 the Memphis Grizzlies travel to the AT&T Center to take on the San Antonio
 The Grizzlies are the No. 2 seed in the conference, but their advantage has
 shrunk to a half-game over the Houston Rockets for both that spot and the
 Southwest Division lead.
 Memphis has lost two in a row, decisively, and will not be able to catch
 Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference. When the Warriors
 defeated the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, they clinched the top seed in the
 conference playoffs.
 The Spurs are sixth in the standings, just a game behind the Portland Trail
 Blazers and 1 1/2 in front of the Dallas Mavericks, who are seventh in the
 Memphis has looked bad in its last two outings. The Grizzlies fell to LeBron
 James and the Cleveland Cavaliers by 22 at home on Wednesday, then lost to the
 Warriors by 23 on Beale Street Friday.
 "Another tough night. We played a very, very good team," Grizzlies coach David
 Joerger said. "We did not play very well again, which is very disappointing."
 Mike Conley and Jeff Green each scored 16 points to lead Memphis. Marc Gasol
 scored 13 points and Zach Randolph managed 10 points.
 Stephen Curry scored the first five points of the second half as Golden State
 grabbed a double-digit edge. He canned successive 3s later in the quarter to
 extend the lead to 21, and Golden State brought an 85-65 lead into the fourth.
 The Warriors led by as many as 24 as they improved to 39-0 this season when
 holding their opponents under 100.
 The Grizzlies had won 12 of their last 14 against the Warriors and 10 of 11 as
 the host versus Golden State.
 The Spurs have won five of their last six and seem to be peaking at the
 perfect time. The defending NBA champions have won four in a row in Alamo
 City, but hit the road starting Tuesday in Miami.
 On Friday, just two days after a 39-point dismantling of the Oklahoma City
 Thunder, the Spurs clobbered the Dallas Mavericks, 94-76.
 Boris Diaw scored 19 points to lead the Spurs. Danny Green had 14 points,
 Tiago Splitter donated 13 points and seven rebounds, while Tony Parker and
 Kawhi Leonard each gave 12 points and six boards for San Antonio.
 "They did well. We shared the ball really well. We have got to get assists,
 that's how we score," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "We had about
 seven guys with three assists or more. That's how we have to play."
 San Antonio handed out 28 assists on 37 made field goals.
 The Spurs never trailed in this game, but did go cold in the third quarter.
 Dallas got within five, but Diaw  made a 3-pointer to start a 12-2 run to
 begin the fourth quarter. The Spurs held an 81-63 lead with just under seven
 minutes to play. The lead reached as high as 21 as San Antonio cruised to the
 The Grizzlies have won two of three this season against the Spurs. Memphis
 prevailed over the Spurs in San Antonio in three overtimes on Dec. 17.
 ( - The Oklahoma City Thunder are sputtering a bit, but
 they'll get a close look at one of the teams chasing them Sunday night when
 they visit the Phoenix Suns.
 OKC has lost two in a row, but is 2 1/2 games in front of the New Orleans
 Pelicans for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Western Conference.
 Time is running out for the Suns. They trail the Thunder by three games. New
 Orleans hosts the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
 The Thunder, who have been fighting for a playoff spot without Kevin Durant or
 Serge Ibaka, but, with MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, dropped the first two
 legs of their three-game road trip.
 On Wednesday, Oklahoma City got trounced by 39 at the hands of the San Antonio
 Spurs, then fell to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, 94-89.
 The Thunder held a 16-point lead over the Jazz at one point, but were
 outscored by seven over the second half, despite the fact that Utah played
 Friday night.
 "We just weren't ready to play," Westbrook said.
 Westbrook had 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead Oklahoma City
 and Enes Kanter collected 18 points and 11 boards against his former team.
 Anthony Morrow scored 12 off the bench.
 The Thunder played for the first time since announcing Friday that reigning
 NBA MVP Durant would miss the rest of the season to have a bone graft
 procedure on his injured foot that will keep him sidelined up to six months.
 Kanter faced the Jazz for the first time since he was dealt in a three-team
 trade last month and after he had some negative things to say about playing in
 The Jazz, after trailing by 16 in the first half, held the Thunder under 24
 percent shooting in the third quarter and took the lead for good with a 6-0
 burst capped by Hayward's free throw after Kanter was called for a technical
 Phoenix has lost two straight, both at home. First, the Suns fell to the
 Sacramento Kings, then, on Friday night, they lost to the Portland Trail
 Blazers, 87-81.
 Marcus Morris paced the Suns with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while brother
 Markieff had 15 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
 Eric Bledsoe's free throw gave the Suns a 74-70 lead with under six minutes
 left in the game, then Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge got going and helped
 Portland take control.
 Aldridge followed Bledsoe's make with a layup that kicked off a 15-2 run. He
 scored the final 10 points of the late surge that put the Blazers up 85-76
 with 1:04 remaining.
 "We had several opportunities, but they weren't able to convert. Credit to
 Aldridge," said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.
 Things don't get any easier for the Suns who travel to Portland and Golden
 State during the upcoming week.
 The Suns have won three of the last five meetings, but OKC owns a 13-3 mark in
 recent history. All three of Phoenix's victories in this recent series came in
 the last three games in Arizona.
 03/29 10:33:43 ET