Pelicans, Thunder keep NBA playoff hopes alive, winning critical victories
New Orleans and Oklahoma City both won critical games on Monday to stay alive in the battle for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, while Brooklyn hurt its postseason chances with a loss to Chicago in the East. Anthony Davis had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks to move the Pelicans one step closer to a playoff berth with a 100-88 victory over Minnesota.
Tyreke Evans added 22 points and five assists and Eric Gordon scored 22 for the Pelicans (44-37). They have the same record as Oklahoma City, but hold the tiebreaker heading into the season finale Wednesday against San Antonio.
The Thunder avoided elimination by beating Portland 101-90.
Russell Westbrook scored 36 points Enes Kanter added 27 points and 13 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which finishes against Minnesota on Thursday.
Westbrook picked up his 16th technical at Indiana on Sunday, which would have been an automatic one-game suspension. It was rescinded on Monday, allowing him to play.
Meyers Leonard scored a career-high 24 points for the Trail Blazers, who already were locked into the No. 4 playoff spot in the West.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, fell into ninth place in the Eastern Conference after losing to Chicago 113-86.
Nikola Mirotic scored 26 points and Pau Gasol had 22 points and 11 rebounds as the Bulls clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Nets will need a win Wednesday and a loss by Indiana in at least one of its final two games to reach the postseason.
In other games that could impact playoff seeding, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston both won to set up a three-way tie with idle San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the West, while Memphis lost to Golden State to fall to sixth place in the conference.
Blake Griffin scored 22 points and DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 21 rebounds as the Clippers beat Denver 110-103 for their sixth straight win.
James Harden scored 29 points and Josh Smith added 16 points and 11 rebounds as Houston defeated Charlotte 100-90. Harden was only 7 of 20 from the field, but was 14 of 16 from the freethrow line.
The Clippers play at Phoenix on Tuesday in their season finale, while the Rockets host Utah in their finale on Thursday.
Short- handed Memphis, meanwhile, lost to NBA-leading Golden State 111-107.
Klay Thompson scored 26 of his 42 points in a sensational second quarter for the Warriors, who have already locked up the top seed in the playoffs.
Thompson finished 15 of 21 from the floor, including 8 of 10 from 3-point range.
All-Star center Marc Gasol and Jeff Green played through injuries for the Grizzlies, while point guard Mike Conley and Tony Allen sat out. Memphis hosts Indiana in its season finale on Thursday.
Elsewhere, the East-leading Atlanta Hawks were shocked on their home floor, losing to the last-place New York Knicks 112-108.
Rookie Langston Galloway scored a career-high 26 points, hitting all six of his 3-point attempts, for the Knicks.
Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver led Atlanta with 19 apiece.
Miami kept its slim playoff chances alive with a 100-93 win over Orlando.
Hassan Whiteside tied a career high with 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Dwyane Wade scored 22 points for the Heat, who still need a win at Philadelphia on Wednesday and help in three other games to make the postseason for the seventh straight year.
Cleveland’s LeBron James returned from a day off to record a triple-double as the Cavaliers got ready for the playoffs with a 109-97 win over the Pistons.
James had 21 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds as the Cavs improved to 33-9 since Jan. 15.
Milwaukee defeated Philadelphia 107-97, Utah topped Dallas 109-92 and Sacramento beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-92.
(Top) Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul celebrates after making a 3-pointer over Denver Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler, second from right, while Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, left, and J.J. Redick, right, also celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, California, Monday, April 13. (Above) Golden State Warriors’ Harrison Barnes #40 goes up for a dunk against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, California, on Monday.