Bulls take third seed in East, as Hawks win to keep Knicks at bay.
There were 13 games on the NBA schedule on Friday night, but it was the Miami Heat’s win over rivals the Indiana Pacers which made the headlines as they regained top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The two-time defending NBA champions moved a half-game ahead of Indiana in the race for the No.1 seed in the playoffs, with LeBron James scoring 36 points as the hosts used a 16-0 run to open the second half to move clear.
In addition, there was production across the roster as Dwyane Wade sat out with his on-going hamstring problem, but it didn’t matter on the night as Miami (54-25) secured a significant win which puts them in a strong position to maintain their lead at the top for the remaining three regular season games.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel insisted that they’re “still a good basketball team”, but having rested his starters in mid-week, he will hope that this was just another temporary setback as they prepare for the playoffs.
Elsewhere in the East, the Toronto Raptors’ loss coupled with the Chicago Bulls rallying from an 18-point deficit to beat the Detroit Pistons means that the Bulls move up into the third seed.
D.J. Augustin had 24 points as Chicago ensured that they have home-court advantage for at least one playoff series having picked up their seventh consecutive win with Taj Gibson adding 17 points.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks defeated the Raptors with Carmelo Anthony overcoming his shoulder problem to score a game-high 30 points, but with the Atlanta Hawks winning in Brooklyn, it meant little as the gap remains at two games for the eighth and final playoff spot.
As a result, the Knicks must hope that Atlanta lose their remaining three games while they must win their last three, which will see them take on Chicago, Brooklyn and Toronto.
It undoubtedly looks bleak for Knicks coach Mike Woodson, but he has called upon his players to continue the fight until it is mathematically impossible for them to make it.
Over in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder sealed a comfortable win over the New Orleans Pelicans with Kevin Durant posting up 27 points, but the San Antonio Spurs clinched top seed after rallying against the Phoenix Suns.
Danny Green had a career-high 33 points as they fought back from a 21-point deficit, and while they had maintained that the No.1 seed was never their priority, they will be delighted to have clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the defeat sees Phoenix drop out of the top eight with Memphis moving in, however they remain locked on 47-32 for the season.
Washington Wizards 98-86 Orlando Magic
New York Knicks 108-100 Toronto Raptors
Charlotte Bobcats 103-106 Boston Celtics
Atlanta Hawks 93-88 Brooklyn Nets
Indiana Pacers 86-98 Miami Heat
Detroit Pistons 98-106 Chicago Bulls
Philadelphia 76ers 95-117 Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets 110-112 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 95-116 Oklahoma City Thunder
Cleveland Cavaliers 116-119 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 104-112 San Antonio Spurs
Portland Trail Blazers 111-99 Utah Jazz
Golden State Warriors 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers