Celtics 98, Pistons 93
Ray Allen left as a free agent. Rajon Rondo is out for the season. Kevin Garnett is recuperating from an ankle injury.
With the core of the Celtics team that won the franchise's 17th NBA title in 2008 otherwise occupied, Jeff Green led Boston back into the playoffs.
The Celtics swingman scored 34 points, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to snap a two-minute scoring drought, to help Boston beat Detroit on Wednesday night and clinch the team's sixth consecutive playoff berth.
"We knew we were a playoff team before the season started, despite the injuries and everything," said Paul Pierce, the only holdover from the team that won it all in 2008 and returned to the NBA finals two years later.
"The playoffs is a totally different game; it's nothing like the regular season. At least these guys will go out there and get their feet wet, see some shots go in, rebound the ball and get some experience."
Pierce and Brandon Bass scored 17 apiece, and Bass added seven rebounds for the Celtics, who had lost two in a row and seven of their previous nine.
The victory, coupled with Philadelphia's 88-83 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, left Boston 8½ games ahead of the 76ers with eight games to play. It's the sixth consecutive season Boston has reached the playoffs since the New Big Three was assembled in the summer of 2007.
Even with Allen gone and Garnett missing seven straight games with an injured left ankle, the Celtics are back in the postseason. Boston is seventh in the Eastern Conference, two games behind sixth-place Chicago and 2½ ahead of eighth-place Milwaukee.
Green came to Boston in the 2011 trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, but he missed all of last season after heart surgery.
Now he looks like the Celtics' best hope of making a postseason run.
"Jeff's a very, very good player, and I think (that's) what you've seen," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "He got off to a tough start this year and obviously he had major, major, life-threatening surgery last year. ... I didn't like to see him do well tonight, but by and large every other game you pull for him, especially with what he went through."
Green scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and added six rebounds and four blocked shots in the game. He has become one of the players the Celtics look to for big plays as the clock runs down, sharing the role that Pierce had occupied for more than a decade.
"I don't try to take over games. We have 'the Truth,'" Green said, calling Pierce by his nickname. "We feed off each other. If it's in my hands, I try to make a play. If it's in his hands, he'll try to make a play. We're playing off each other."
Greg Monroe had 24 points and 17 rebounds and Rodney Stuckey scored 22 for the Pistons.
The Celtics led by as many as 18 points before the Pistons scored the final 11 points of the third quarter and opened the fourth with Jonas Jerebko's three-point play. Boston went into another scoring slump late in the fourth, going 2 minutes, 9 seconds without a point while Detroit cut a 93-87 deficit down to two points.
Knicks 95, Celtics 82
Carmelo Anthony put on another scoring show, though he didn't have to do it alone.
Anthony scored 40 points and the Knicks got key contributions from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton during a 19-5 fourth-quarter run that sparked New York to its 10th straight victory.
"Melo is smart enough to know that if he's doubled, he'll sacrifice the ball," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "And we've got enough shooters around him that are making big shots. That opens it up for him even more. And when he gets going like he did tonight, they're not going to leave him alone very often."
Anthony, who scored 50 in his last game at Miami, scored 26 in the first half. He commanded more defensive attention in the second half, which left opportunities for Smith, who scored 19, and Felton, who scored 14. Felton's quickness to the basket resulted in three straight scores during a 12-2 streak that turned a tie game into an 84-74 Knicks lead that was never threatened.
"A lot of (Anthony's) points came off the bounce, with just two or three dribbles, and then a quick pull-up," Woodson said. "When he got doubled, he got the ball out. It was kind of nice to play off him tonight."
Atlanta forward Al Horford admitted, "He hit a lot of tough shots. I think he was very comfortable out there. We probably should have tried to pressure him more."
Anthony made 17 of 27 from the field and was 5-for-6 at the line. He also had five rebounds and three assists, with only one turnover.
"The rhythm was there and I wanted to see if I still had it going," Anthony said. "It was just one of those nights once again. I feel like when I have the opportunity, I just want to take my time and take it when I'm open and then find the open man when I'm doubled."
The game was tied at 72 with 9:48 left when New York took control. The Knicks outscored the Hawks 23-10 the rest of the way, as Felton scored 10 in the final period.
The win puts New York in sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference.
"This team is playing for something," Woodson said. "We know every game counts. We've had our ups and downs because of injuries, but we've just got to finish this regular season out."
Atlanta lost the opportunity to move into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and wasted a 25-point effort by Kyle Korver, who came up two points short of his season high.
Nets 113, Cavaliers 95
Deron Williams scored 24 points and Brooklyn ended an eight-game road trip by crushing Cleveland, giving the Nets a record for road wins in a season.
The Nets shot 83 percent (15 of 18) in the second quarter, when they outscored the Cavs 38-16 and opened a 30-point lead without much of a fight. Brooklyn's 21 road wins are the most for the franchise, which moved to the New York City borough from New Jersey this season.
MarShon Brooks made his first 10 shots and finished with a career-high 27 points for the Nets, who haven't played at home since March 17 because the circus is at Barclays Center.
Kyrie Irving scored 16 points for the Cavs, who have lost 10 straight.
Clippers 126, Suns 101
DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Chris Paul added 14 points and 12 assists, and Los Angeles beat Phoenix for its franchise-record 50th win.
Willie Green and Caron Butler scored 15 points each, and Blake Griffin had nine points, seven assists and five rebounds to help the Clippers end a three-game skid with their second-highest scoring total of the season. They improved to 50-26 overall, bettering the single-season record for wins set in 1974-75 when the team was in Buffalo. They're 29-9 at home.
Wesley Johnson scored 20 points and Jermaine O'Neal added 18 for the last-place Suns, who have lost seven straight overall.
Nuggets 113, Jazz 96
Danilo Gallinari scored 21 points, including nine straight in the fourth quarter, and Denver ended Utah's winning streak at five.
Utah fell a half-game behind the idle Lakers for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
Kenneth Faried added 19 points for the Nuggets, who won three of four against Utah this season and are in third place in the West, two games ahead of the Clippers.
Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 18 points, while Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap scored 16 apiece for Utah, which made 19 3-pointers in two previous games but was just 6 of 20 from beyond the arc in this one.
Grizzlies 94, Trail Blazers 76
Mike Conley scored 20 points and Memphis set a franchise record for wins in a season with a victory over Portland.
With four straight wins, the Grizzlies improved to 51-24, surpassing their 50-win season in 2003-04. The Grizzlies have already clinched a spot in the playoffs and are jockeying for home-court advantage in the first round.
Former Blazer Zach Randolph, who played his first six seasons in Portland from 2001-07, added 17 points and eight rebounds for Memphis.
Damian Lillard and J.J. Hickson led the Blazers with 17 points apiece.
Spurs 98, Magic 84
Danny Green scored 20 points and Gary Neal added 16 to pace depleted San Antonio to a victory over Orlando.
A 14-2 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Green midway through the fourth finally allowed the Spurs to take control. Before the run, San Antonio appeared sluggish and unable to pull away from the Magic, who trailed 74-70 with 10:37 remaining.
Already without Manu Ginobili, the Spurs rested Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, and used Tim Duncan for only 14 minutes.
Maurice Harkless scored 18 points for Orlando.
Warriors 98, Hornets 88
David Lee had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 20 points and nine assists, and Golden State shook off a slow start to ease past New Orleans.
Reserve Jarrett Jack finished with 19 points and eight assists against his former team to keep the Warriors in sixth place in the West. Golden State remains one game ahead of Houston, which won 112-102 at Sacramento. The Rockets own the tiebreaker after going 3-1 in the season series.
Eric Gordon scored 21 points and Robin Lopez had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Hornets, who were swept 4-0 by the Warriors this season. New Orleans led by 11 points in the second quarter before the Warriors surged ahead for good.
Rockets 112, Kings 102
Chandler Parsons scored 29 points and James Harden added 21 to lead Houston to a win over Sacramento.
Parsons and Harden, the team's two leading scorers, returned to the lineup to help the Rockets win their third straight and eighth in 11 games. Parsons, who made 12 of 18 shots, had missed the previous game with food poisoning, while Harden had been nursing a foot injury.
Omer Asik had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Jeremy Lin had 15 points and 10 assists for Houston, which sits in seventh place in the West.
Tyreke Evans scored 22 points and Marcus Thornton had 21 for the Kings.
Timberwolves 107, Bucks 98
Nikola Pekovic scored 27 points and Ricky Rubio added 18 points, 12 assists and eight steals to lead Minnesota past Milwaukee.
Pekovic made 11 of 14 shots from the field and also had eight rebounds. Rubio connected on five of his six attempts from 3-point range for the Timberwolves, who went 8-of-13 from beyond the arc as a team and led most of the game.
Ersan Ilyasova had 29 points and 12 rebounds, Monta Ellis scored 18 points and Mike Dunleavy added 15 for Milwaukee, which holds a six-game lead on Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bobcats 88, 76ers 83
Gerald Henderson scored 24 points, Kemba Walker had 17 points, 10 assists and five steals, and Charlotte snapped Philadelphia's three-game winning streak.
Henderson had a crucial steal late in the game and scored four points in the final minute to help the Bobcats end a three-game skid. Josh McRoberts added 12 points and 16 rebounds for Charlotte.
Damien Wilkins had 20 points and nine rebounds for the 76ers, who were dealt a big blow to their already thin playoff hopes. Philadelphia came in six games behind Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with nine games left. Jrue Holliday had a miserable shooting night for the Sixers, going 2 of 24 from the field and finishing with five points.
Raptors 88, Wizards 78
Jonas Valanciunas scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Toronto over Washington.
Valanciunas went 16 of 18 at the free throw line and DeMar DeRozan had 25 points for Toronto, which snapped a two-game skid after being eliminated from the playoff chase.
John Wall had 20 points for the short-handed Wizards (28-47), who announced before the game that rookie standout Bradley Beal will miss the remainder of the season with a right leg injury.
The Raptors are second in the NBA in free throw shooting percentage since the All-Star break at 81 percent. They hit 75 percent (27 of 36) against the Wizards.
Sacramento, Seattle groups present to NBA owners
The future home of the Kings may not be settled this month after all.
With owners facing a difficult choice between a move to Seattle or the team staying put in Sacramento, NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday the expected vote in two weeks may be delayed.
"We've never had a situation like this," Stern said.
"And the seriousness of purpose to me is really incredible, because (owners) know that there's a lot at stake here for two communities and the NBA."
A Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a pending agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the team and move it back to the city the SuperSonics left in 2008. Sacramento has put together its own group to make a competing bid.
Both sides made presentations to a committee of owners on Wednesday — with George Maloof making clear during Seattle's that his family wanted to deal with them — that left enough questions that Stern says he doesn't know when a decision will be made.
A vote was expected during the April 18-19 board of governors meeting. But Stern said questions remain about real estate and arena construction timelines, and owners may need more time to sort through them.
It couldn't go much past that date, because a 2013-14 schedule has to be made and tickets have to be sold.
"I wouldn't expect it if it does to slide by a lot, because there's a combined interest in having some clarity come to this situation," Stern said.
The Seattle group went first, touting the financial strength of its city and the passion of its fans. Sacramento followed, stressing the support it's shown for the Kings, even during their many losing seasons, and the city's plans for a new arena that would revitalize its downtown.
"Think about it for a second. The NBA does not want to move a team from one market to another, period," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said. "We already know that. They normally move a team from one market to another when the fans don't support it or you can't build a building. That's not the case in Sacramento."
Eight owners made up the committee Wednesday. Sacramento's group, consisting of Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire investor Ron Burkle and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, seemed loose afterward, laughing and joking through a press conference.
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