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Cavaliers become first team into playoffs

THE Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team to clinch a spot in the NBA playoffs by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 91-73 yesterday.

Cleveland wrapped up their fourth straight postseason berth with more than a month left in the regular season. The Cavs moved 36 games over. 500 for the first time this season and improved their league-best record at home to 27-1.

LeBron James scored 23 points and Delonte West had 13 and a career-high eight steals.

Jazz 101, Rockets 94

In Salt Lake City, Utah won its ninth straight game by downing Houston, moving within a game of the Northwest Division lead.

Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 17 rebounds in his best game since his return from a three-month absence.

The Rockets crept within three points in the final minute before the Jazz sealed it and recorded their 10th straight home win.

Mavericks 107, Spurs 102

In Dallas, Josh Howard scored 29 points, including a key layup in the final minute, as Dallas edged Texas rival San Antonio.

Jason Kidd hit a clutch 3-pointer with 31 seconds left to secure the win and move the Mavericks within 3-1/2 games of the Spurs, who sit atop the Southwest Division.

Celtics 115, Nets 111

In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Paul Pierce scored 31 points and hit a game-winning 17-footer with 20 seconds left, leading Boston over New Jersey.

The Celtics shot 61.2 percent from the field in beating their Atlantic Division rival for the third time this season.

Heat 135, Suns 129

In Miami, Dwyane Wade scored 35 points and tied his career high with 16 assists as Miami prevailed in an entertaining game against Phoenix.

Reserves Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook combined to score 55 points, and the Heat spoiled Shaquille O'Neal's return to face one of his former teams.

Beasley scored 28 points - the most by a Heat player besides Wade this season - and nine rebounds. Cook added 27 points and Miami recorded the second-highest point total in franchise history.

O'Neal finished with 22 points and eight rebounds before fouling out late.

Trail Blazers 107, Pacers 105

In Portland, Oregon, Portland notched a 10th successive home win by pipping Indiana.

Brandon Roy scored 28 points, including a pair of game-clinching free throws with 1.7 seconds left.

The Blazers rallied after trailing by 14 points in the second half.

The result also ended the Pacers run of nine consecutive wins over Portland.

Knicks 109, Hawks 105

In New York, the hosts won for the first time in four games, defeating Atlanta.

Larry Hughes scored 23 points for the Knicks, continuing his turnaround from a rocky start with his new team.

New York got March off to a good start after a 3-10 February that damaged their hopes of making the playoffs. The Knicks are two games behind Milwaukee and Chicago for the provisional eighth Eastern Conference playoff berth.

Bulls 110, Warriors 88

In Chicago, John Salmons had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead Chicago over Golden State.

Joakim Noah added 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls, who pulled away early in the fourth quarter.

Grizzlies 118, Clippers 95

In Los Angeles, Memphis ended a run of eight losses with a comfortable win over Los Angeles.

Rudy Gay scored 20 of his season-high 35 points in the third quarter to set up the win - only the fourth road victory of the season for the Grizzlies.

The Clippers lost their fourth straight and have now lost 30 games by double-digit margins - the most in the league and one more than Memphis.

Thunder 88, Wizards 83

In Oklahoma City, the home team brought up its first three-game winning streak, defeating Washington.

Thabo Sefolosha made a reverse layup with 1:47 to play, putting Oklahoma City up 84-81. A jumper by Russell Westbrook with 33 seconds remaining stretched the lead to five, and two late free throws made sure.

Sefolosha had 15 points and Westbrook 12 with eight assists for the Thunder.

Washington didn't score in the final 2-1/2 minutes.


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