- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Tim Duncan’s nagging knee is getting better, and Utah’s playoff fate is getting worse.

Duncan said the pain in his troubled right leg was “basically gone” after a 105-99 victory over the Jazz on Friday night, giving the Spurs a welcome bit of good news in an otherwise dreary stretch. They’ve lost four of seven, have fallen to fifth in the West and began the week with word that injured Manu Ginobili won’t be around for the playoffs.

San Antonio has three regular-season games left. How many games they’ll last after that will depend on how well Duncan holds up.

“I’m getting my right leg back,” said Duncan, who had 14 points and nine rebounds in the win over Utah. “I think it’s basically gone. It was good to be out there without a brace on and try to play well.”

Deron Williams had 25 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, who have lost five of six and are all alone at No. 8 in the West standings. Utah lost for the 20th consecutive time in San Antonio _ a streak dating to 1999 _ and dropped a full game behind Dallas and New Orleans.

If the Jazz don’t make up any ground in their final three games, they draw the first-round matchup no team wants: Kobe Bryant and the dominant Los Angeles Lakers.

“Whoever we play in the first round, if it’s the Lakers, go play them and lay it out there,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “You never know what can happen.”

Tony Parker scored 31 points for the Spurs, who didn’t make up any ground in the standings because of Houston and Portland victories Friday. San Antonio’s final three are at Sacramento, at Golden State and home against New Orleans.

After losing to Portland on Wednesday, Parker said Duncan has been “playing on one leg for like a month and a half.” Duncan said that wasn’t entirely true.

“It’s an exaggeration,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing on a half a leg.”

The Spurs are a half-game behind Houston in the Southwest Division, which San Antonio led for much of the season before being marred by inconsistency and injuries. The Spurs are 12-10 since March, a span that included just six games with Ginobili before tests this week revealed a season-ending stress fracture in his right ankle.

Mehmet Okur had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Utah. Ronnie Brewer scored 17 and Carlos Boozer added 15.

The Jazz go home to play Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers before their regular-season finale Tuesday at the Lakers.

“One day we can play great, the next day we can stink it up,” Williams said. “It’s our identity right now, which is not a good identity to have.”

Cavaliers 102, 76ers 92

At Philadelphia, LeBron James had 27 points and 10 assists, Wally Szczerbiak scored a season-high 18 and the Cavaliers clinched the No. 1 playoff seed and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

Andre Iguodala led Philadelphia with 26.

Mavericks 100, Hornets 92

At Dallas, Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki each scored 25 points and the Mavericks held off a late rally led by Chris Paul for a victory that tied the teams for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Paul had 42 points, one shy of his career high, with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Trail Blazers 106, Lakers 98

At Portland, Ore., Brandon Roy had 24 points and eight assists in Trail Blazers’ eighth straight victory over the Lakers at the Rose Garden.

Kobe Bryant scored 32 points. The Lakers played without coach Phil Jackson, who didn’t travel with the team because of pain in his lower right leg, and fell 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the best record in the NBA and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

Rockets 113, Warriors 109

At Oakland, Calif., Dikembe Mutombo had 10 points and 15 rebounds, Luis Scola added a career-high 28 points and Houston maintained its slim hold on the third seed in the Western Conference.

Making a rare start after center Yao Ming was scratched from Houston’s lineup because of lingering soreness in his right foot, the 42-year-old Mutombo blocked four shots and played a season-high 36 minutes.

Celtics 105, Heat 98

At Boston, Paul Pierce scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half, including the go-ahead free throws with 97 seconds left.

Dwyane Wade scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half, adding nine assists, to help the Heat tie it 95-all with just under two minutes left.

Knicks 105, Magic 95

At Orlando, Fla., Al Harrington scored 27 points, Wilson Chandler had 22 and the New York dealt a crushing blow to the Magic’s hopes of getting the Eastern Conference’s second seed.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 24, and Dwight Howard had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando, which fell two games back of Boston for the East’s No. 2 spot with three games left.

Hawks 122, Pacers 118

At Atlanta, Josh Smith scored 30 points and Joe Johnson had 24 to help the Hawks clinch the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Danny Granger had 35 points for Indiana, which was eliminated from playoff contention.

Pistons 100, Nets 93

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Will Bynum scored 20 points and Rasheed Wallace added 15 as Detroit clinched a playoff spot for the eighth straight year.

New Jersey lost for the eighth time in 10 games. Rookie Ryan Anderson led the Nets with 20 points, one short of his career high, and fellow first-year players Chris Douglas-Roberts and Brook Lopez had 16 apiece.

Grizzlies 106, Suns 89

At Memphis, Tenn., Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo scored 20 points apiece as the Grizzlies snapped a 10-game losing streak against Phoenix.

Jason Richardson and Louis Amundson led the Suns with 13 points apiece.

Thunder 84, Bobcats 81

At Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Thunder knocked Charlotte out of playoff contention in the home finale of their first season in Oklahoma City.

D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats with 20 points.

Wizards 100, Raptors 98

At Toronto, Caron Butler made a jumper at the buzzer and scored 21 points. Antawn Jamison had 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Chris Bosh had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto.

Clippers 109, Kings 78

At Los Angeles, Brian Skinner scored a season-high 21 points, Eric Gordon added 20 and the Clippers snapped a six-game losing streak.

Playing without leading scorer Kevin Martin, Sacramento lost its seventh straight.

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