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Rockets close in on divisional title

THE Houston Rockets knew the math before their game against New Orleans.

Win their final two regular-season games and they're Southwest Division champions. Two more victories would also give them a chance to grab the No. 2 seed for the Western Conference playoffs.

Houston made the first step look easy.

Yao Ming scored 22 points, Luis Scola grabbed 15 rebounds and the Rockets routed the Hornets 86-66 on Monday night in their regular-season home finale. Houston came in holding the No. 4 seed in the West, but with the same record as San Antonio and Portland, who both won later in the night.

If the Rockets win their last game in Dallas today, they'll secure their first division championship since 1993-94. But in the jumbled Western Conference, Houston could also slip to fifth place - and lose home-court advantage in the first round - with a loss to the Mavericks.

"We just need to keep winning because nothing is secure right now," said Yao, who showed no ill effects from a sore right foot that kept him out of Houston's last game. "We still need to win one more game because there is the possibility of us finishing with the second seed, which would be even better."

The Rockets have won five in a row, an impressive stretch run that's assured them of nothing worse than the No. 5 seed.

"Right now, we have a chance for everything," Scola said.

In other games, it was: Cavaliers 117, Pacers 109; Bucks 98, Magic 80; Spurs 101, Warriors 72; Bulls 91, Pistons 88; Trail Blazers 113, Thunder 83; Mavericks 96, Timberwolves 94; Nuggets 118, Kings 98; Nets 91, Bobcats 87; Suns 119, Grizzlies 110; Jazz 106, Clippers 85; and Raptors 97, Wizards 96.

In Indianapolis, Cleveland clinched the NBA's best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by beating Indiana.

Getting the home-court edge was especially important because Cleveland has a 39-1 record at home, the best in the league.

LeBron James scored 37 points to lead the Cavaliers, who won their fifth straight.

In Milwaukee, Orlando slipped to a third straight loss by a lowly opponent, beaten easily by Milwaukee.

Richard Jefferson scored 24 points for the Bucks in their home finale, providing a late hight note to an otherwise offkey season.

The Magic was playing without Dwight Howard and two other starters.

Orlando was coming off losses to New York and New Jersey, but is locked in the No. 3 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

In Oakland, California, San Antonio kept pace with Houston atop the Southwest Division by crushing Golden State.

Tony Parker scored 17 points and Tim Duncan added 16 points and 13 rebounds before both stars sat out the fourth quarter.

The Spurs won their third straight to pull even at 53-28 with the Rockets and Portland.

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Ben Gordon made a tiebreaking layup with 15 seconds left, and Chicago locked Detroit in the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The loss means the Pistons will face Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulls lead Philadelphia by a half-game for sixth.


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