- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

DALLAS (AP) - Rick Carlisle often warns his players to “never underestimate greatness at any age,” a reminder that even a guy on the downside of his career can flash his Hall of Fame credentials at any time.

Jason Kidd sure backed up his coach’s saying Sunday.

On the afternoon he passed Magic Johnson for No. 3 on the career assists list, Kidd dished out a season-high 20, scored 19 points and sent the Dallas Mavericks to a 140-116 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday that pretty much cleared up the playoff picture for both teams.

Oh, and he did it in three quarters.

“The biggest thing is that we had fun in a big game,” Kidd said. “And when we do that, we are dangerous.”

Had the Suns won, the Mavs would’ve had only a two-game lead and a worrisome slump, while Phoenix would’ve been on a nice roll and had the advantage of an easier schedule the rest of the way. But now Dallas owns a four-game lead with five games left. The Mavs would have to lose them all, and the Suns win all of theirs, for the teams to trade places in the standings.

Put another way, any Dallas win or Phoenix loss clinches a ninth straight postseason trip for the Mavericks and ends a streak of four straight for the Suns.

“We’re not holding our breath,” Phoenix guard Steve Nash said.

Dallas players have been saying for weeks that they’re focused on moving up to the seventh spot to avoid a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ll get a great chance in their next game, when Utah, currently seeded seventh, visits Wednesday night, then face a stiff challenge with a home-and-home series against New Orleans.

“It should be a fun week,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 28 points.

Kidd came in 13 assists behind Johnson. After dishing out eight in the first quarter, the milestone came into reach. He had four during a 24-3 spurt that broke the game open, then four more in the final few minutes of the half, capped by an inbound pass to Josh Howard that resulted in a 71-foot basket and a whopping 81 first-half points.

Kidd finished the game with 10,148 career assists, 187 behind Mark Jackson. John Stockton is the record holder with 15,806.

“I don’t think it’s in reach,” Kidd said. “That’s another 5,000. I need somebody (else’s) assists to get there. I think that (record) is going to be there a while.”

Cavaliers 101, Spurs 81

At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 38 points, Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece as the Cavaliers, the NBA’s best home team, avoided their first three-game losing streak.

Cleveland, which improved to 37-1 at home, would match the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (40-1) for the best home record in NBA history if it can win its final three home games.

Tony Parker scored 24 for San Antonio.

Pistons 104, Bobcats 97

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Will Bynum scored a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter to put the Pistons a step closer to locking up the final playoff spot in the East.

Bynum finished with a career-high 32 points and also had seven assists. He made all six of his field-goal attempts and went 14-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth.

D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 22 points.

Knicks 112, Raptors 103

At Toronto, Wilson Chandler scored 17 points, David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds and New York eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs. It came one day after the Knicks saw their postseason hopes end with a 102-95 home loss to the Raptors.

The Knicks had not won in Toronto since March 5, 2004, a span of nine games.

Chris Bosh had 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Raptors.

Jazz 108, Hornets 94

At New Orleans, Ronnie Brewer scored 23 points and Utah clinched a playoff spot after completing a convincing season sweep of the Hornets.

David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans.

Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 87

At Minneapolis, Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and Denver won their seventh straight.

The Nuggets extended their lead to two games over San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the West after the Spurs lost to Cleveland earlier in the day.

Rockets 102, Trail Blazers 88

At Houston, Yao Ming had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Rockets past Portland, just hours after the Trail Blazers got their first playoff berth since 2003 when Dallas beat Phoenix.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and nine rebounds for Portland.

Nets 96, 76ers 67

At East Rutherford, N.J., Vince Carter scored 15 points and the Nets kept their slim playoff hopes alive by handing the 76ers their worst loss of the season.

Lou Williams had 14 points to lead the 76ers.

Pacers 117, Thunder 99

At Oklahoma City, Danny Granger scored 24 points, Troy Murphy added 22 points and nine rebounds for playoff-hopeful Indiana.

Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 25 points.

Warriors 105, Kings 100

At Sacramento, Calif., Kelenna Azubuike had 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, and Golden State hung on to win with seven healthy players.

Jamal Crawford had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors in their third straight victory, including two wins in five days over the Kings.

Lakers 88, Clippers 85

At Los Angeles, Lamar Odom had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 18 points and the Lakers remained a game behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record.

Eric Gordon scored 24 points for the Clippers, who’ve lost 12 of their last 15.


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