Westbrook scores 54, but Pacers hold off Thunder in NBA race for playoffs
Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 54 points on Sunday, but the Indiana Pacers fended off his late charge for a critical 116-104 victory over Oklahoma City Thunder.
C.J. Miles matched his season high with 30 points to lead Indiana (37-43) to their fifth straight win and into a tie with Brooklyn for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Nets own the tiebreaker.
The Thunder (43-37) lost for the fifth time in six games despite a near triple-double from Westbrook, who had nine rebounds and eight assists. Oklahoma City are tied with New Orleans for the No. 8 seed in the West.
After posting a triple-double in the first game against the Pacers this season, Westbrook nearly did it again. He was 21 of 43 from the field, five of 15 on threes and seven of 11 from the free throw line. He had 22 points and four assists just in the first quarter.
In Houston, James Harden scored 30 points as the Rockets used a big run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to down the New Orleans Pelicans 121-114.
The Rockets ended a two-game losing streak behind the NBA-leading 35th 30-point game for Harden, who leads the league in scoring.
Corey Brewer and Dwight Howard carried Houston in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, combining for all of the Rockets' points in a 14-5 run that put them on top 100-91. Howard finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Brewer added 20 points.
Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points as the Bucks clinched a playoff spot with their blowout 96-73 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Milwaukee also secured the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, a year after a club-worst 67-loss season. O.J. Mayo added 17 points for the Bucks. Brook Lopez had his 17th double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets.
Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points as the Boston Celtics moved closer to a playoff berth with a 117-78 victory over a Cleveland Cavaliers team without LeBron James and three other starters. The Celtics magic number for reaching the postseason dropped to one.
The San Antonio Spurs downed the Phoenix Suns 107-91 after Tim Duncan had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead San Antonio to their 11th straight victory.
San Antonio moved into second place in the Western Conference and took a half-game lead over idle Memphis in the Southwest Division. The defending champions Spurs have won 21 of 24.
The Washington Wizards claimed their highest win total in more than 30 years to beat the Atlanta Hawks 108-99 after John Wall had 24 points and nine assists.
In other games, the Dallas Mavericks downed the Los Angeles Lakers 120-106, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Sacramento Kings 122-111 and the Detroit Pistons were 116-77 winners over the Charlotte Hornets.