- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden strengthened his case for the MVP award with a career-high 51 points, and the Houston Rockets squandered a huge early lead but held on for a 115-111 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Houston was up by nine with about eight minutes left when Sacramento used a 9-2 spurt to get within 104-102 with 5 ½ remaining. An 8-0 run by Harden, which he capped with a 3-point play, pushed the lead to 112-104. Four straight points by the Kings cut the lead to four with less than a minute left, but they didn’t score after that.

DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with his second career triple-double with 24 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists after missing Monday’s game to rest. He also had six blocks.

Wednesday’s performance surpassed Harden’s previous career best of 50 points, which came on March 19.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Aron Baynes had 18 points, Manu Ginobili added 13 and San Antonio clinched a playoff berth with a win over Orlando.

San Antonio, which posted its fifth straight victory, is 15-3 since Feb. 27 and has made the postseason in 18 consecutive seasons. It was the Spurs’ eighth straight win over Orlando.

Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 24 points, while Nik Vucevic added 16 points and 11 rebounds. Orlando has lost four straight, and 10 out of its last 11.

Playing in the second game of a back-to-back, the Spurs were able to rest forward Tim Duncan. He started, but played just 12 minutes, scoring six points.

WIZARDS 106, 76ERS 93

WASHINGTON (AP) - Marcin Gortat scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Bradley Beal added 20 points, and Washington defeated Philadelphia.

John Wall chipped in 13 points and 15 assists for Washington, which had lost five of six.

The Wizards (42-33), who clinched a playoff spot Monday, began play three games behind the Raptors for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Ish Smith tied his season high with 23 points and Isaiah Canaan added 18 for the 76ers (18-58), who have lost four straight overall and 18 of 19 on the road.


BOSTON (AP) - Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points after nearly missing the game with an eye injury sustained hours before tip-off, and Boston beat Indiana in a matchup of Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls.

Tyler Zeller scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half and Evan Turner finished with 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for Boston, which is a half-game out of a playoff spot. The Celtics sit just behind Brooklyn and Miami, who are tied for seventh place in the East.

George Hill had 21 points and Rodney Stuckey scored 16 for the Pacers, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games and fell two games behind Boston.


NEW YORK (AP) - Brook Lopez’s follow shot with 2 seconds left gave the Brooklyn Nets their fifth straight victory and a share of seventh place in the Eastern Conference, as they beat the New York Knicks.

The Nets blew a 16-point, second-half lead but escaped what could have been a crushing loss thanks to Lopez’s effort on the boards on their last possession.

Deron Williams had 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in one of his best games of the season. And when he missed in the lane with the game tied at 98, Lopez tipped the ball once, then knocked it in on his second attempt.

Andrea Bargnani scored 22 points for the Knicks, who lost their eighth straight.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Marvin Williams scored 18 points and Charlotte cruised past Detroit.

Kemba Walker had 17 points and Gerald Henderson added 14 as the Hornets won for only the third time in 10 games to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Charlotte entered the night two games behind eighth-place Brooklyn.

Before the game, Hornets center Al Jefferson had his knee drained for the third time in eight days. He finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, sitting out the fourth quarter because of the big lead.

Jodie Meeks led Detroit with 15 points. Andre Drummond was in early foul trouble and finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Monta Ellis scored 26 points, and Dallas withstood a triple-double from Russell Westbrook to beat Oklahoma City.

Westbrook finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his 10th triple-double of the season, the 17th of his career and his eighth since the All-Star break.

Anthony Morrow scored 32 points and Enes Kanter added a career-high 30 points and 16 rebounds for the Thunder. According to STATS, it was the first time a team had three players score at least 30 points in a game since Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden did it for Oklahoma City on March 7, 2012.

Chandler Parsons added 22 points for the Mavericks, who had seven players score in double figures.


MILWAUKEE (AP) - Michael Carter-Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Milwaukee Bucks to a rare victory at home over Chicago.

The Bucks (37-38), who lost their previous nine home games against the Bulls, also got 16 points from Ersan Ilyasova. Milwaukee won for just the third time in its last 11 games and maintains a 2 1/2-game lead over Miami and Brooklyn for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago’s seven-game winning streak against Milwaukee ended despite 25 points and seven rebounds from Jimmy Butler.

Pau Gasol added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost seven of their last nine on the road.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Lou Williams scored 18 points to lead a balanced Toronto offense as the Raptors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Six players scored at least 13 points for the Raptors, who shot 55.3 percent from the field. DeMar DeRozan had 17 points, Terrance Ross 16, Jonas Valanciunas 15, Greivis Vasquez 14 and James Johnson chipped in 13 for Toronto.

Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points, Zach LaVine had 22 and Chase Budinger added 19 for Minnesota, which lost its fourth straight.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Rudy Gobert scored a career-high 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had two blocks as Utah cruised past Denver. Gobert was coming off his 22nd double-double of the season Monday.

The Nuggets scored 29 first-quarter points, then 30 in the second and third quarters combined. Derrick Favors scored 19, had seven rebounds and three blocks as the Jazz frontcourt dominated. Dante Exum had a career-high 12 assists.

Kenneth Faried scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, while Ty Lawson finished with 15.


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Anthony Davis scored 20 points and the New Orleans Pelicans inched closer to a possible playoff berth with a rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.

New Orleans’ third straight victory, coupled with Oklahoma City’s 135-131 loss to Dallas, brought the Pelicans within 1 1/2 games of the Thunder for eighth place in the Western Conference and completed a four-game season sweep of the Lakers. Six players scored in double digits for New Orleans, including Norris Cole with 17 off the bench.

Jordan Clarkson had 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the lottery-bound Lakers, who dropped to 11-25 at home and 20-53 overall.


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Chris Paul had a season-high 41 points and 17 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied in the second half for a victory over the Trail Blazers, denying Portland a chance at clinching the Northwest Division title.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blazers, who needed a win to secure their first division title since the 2008-09 season when they shared it with Denver.

J.J. Redick added 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and eight rebounds for the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half and then held off a furious Portland rally at the end.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 29 points.

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