The Los Angeles Lakers, led by Vlade Divac's 25 points and a dominating rebound performance, kept their playoffs hopes alive Saturday with a 109-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers, who haven't missed the playoffs in 16 years, advance to a first-round matchup with Portland if they beat the Los Angeles Clippers today and Houston loses at home to Phoenix.Portland, which wrapped up the best record in the Western Conference last Sunday, played its last regular-season game without Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey because of injuries. But that was only part of Portland's manpower problems.
Buck Williams and Cliff Robinson spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble and Kevin Duckworth was thrown out after complaining about a call with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
A 7-0 run put the Lakers ahead for good, with Elden Campbell's 8-footer making it 94-88 with 4:55 to play. Los Angeles stretched the lead to 98-90 on another Campbell basket with 31/2 minutes to go.
Terry Porter's 3-pointer with 2:43 remaining sliced the lead to 100-95, but Campbell scored again with 2:17 to go make it 102-95 and the Blazers didn't challenge seriously again.
Danny Ainge, starting in place of Drexler, scored a season-high 27 points, including the seventh four-point play in Blazers' history with 8:39 remaining. Robinson scored 21 before fouling out with 1:21 to play. Porter added 18 but made only two of 14 shots in the second half.
A.C. Green had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who dominated the boards 42-29. Byron Scott added 18 points as six Los Angeles players hit double figures.
The Lakers have missed the playoffs only three times in their 43-year history. Portland won the season series 4-1.
Drexler missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. Kersey sat out the last three regular-season games with a bruised left shoulder and a sore right ankle.
The game ended with several verbal confrontations between the two teams, including Ainge's unfriendly wish to the Lakers' bench that he hoped to see them in the playoffs next week.
76ers 111, Bullets 104
At Philadelphia, Hersey Hawkins scored 24 points and Ron Anderson led a fourth-quarter rally as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Washington Bullets in the season finale for both teams.
Armon Gilliam added 23 points for the 76ers, who missed the playoffs for only the second time in 17 years. Philadelphia finished with a 35-47 record, compared with 44-48 last season.
Ledell Eackles had 31 points for Washington, which ended with a 25-57 mark.
The Bullets held a 95-94 lead on two free throws by Andre Turner with 10:04 to play. Anderson then scored all nine of his points in a 13-2 run, and his driving layup gave the 76ers a 107-97 lead with 5:34 left.
Washington made 16 of its first 26 shots to take a 35-34 lead after the first quarter and built a 53-43 lead on a layup by Turner with 5:18 left in the second period.
Hawkins, who scored 19 points in the half, rallied Philadelphia to within 59-58 at halftime.
Charles Barkley and Johnny Dawkins each had 13 points for the 76ers, and Dawkins had 12 assists. Michael Adams had 21 points for the Bullets.
Rex Chapman, sidelined with a heel injury since being acquired Feb. 19, played his first game for the Bullets and scored 10 points.
Nets 127, Magic 111
At East Rutherford, N.J., the strife-ridden New Jersey Nets ended years of frustration by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1986 with a victory over the Orlando Magic.
The win nailed down sixth place in the Eastern Conference for the Nets (40-42) and set up a first-round matchup with Cleveland (56-25).
Ironically, the catalysts in the Nets' biggest win in years were Derrick Coleman and Chris Morris, the moody front-line duo who earlier this week refused orders by embattled coach Bill Fitch to re-enter games.
They received mixed reactions in pregame introductions, but they heard nothing but cheers down the stretch as New Jersey marched into the postseason just two years after posting the worst record in the NBA.
Coleman, the No. 1 draft choice product of that worst year, had 31 points and keyed a 34-17 run bridging the first and second quarter that gave New Jersey the lead for good. Morris put the game away by scoring 16 of his 22 points in a third quarter dunking show, when the Nets opened a 16-point lead and started celebrating.
The Nets' win relegated Indiana (40-42) to seventh place in the conference, leaving the Pacers to play the winner of the Atlantic Division, New York or Boston. New Jersey won the tiebreaker on a better conference mark.
The eighth and final playoff spot in the conference is between Miami and Atlanta and will be decided Sunday. Miami plays at Boston, while the Hawks are at Cleveland.
Miami and Atlanta are 38-43, splitting four games this season. Miami had a better conference record (27-28 vs. 23-32) so it would have the advantage in a tiebreaker in case of a tie.
New Jersey was very concerned about Atlanta and Miami coming into Saturday night. Had the Nets lost and finished the season tied with those teams, Fitch and company would have been eliminated.
Coleman started taking control midway through the first half, scoring six points in a quarter-closing 14-5 run that gave New Jersey a 32-27 lead. Last year's NBA rookie of the year had seven more in a 20-12 burst to open the second quarter, putting the Nets ahead 52-39.
Orlando, which ended the season at 21-61, got within 66-61 on a 3-pointer by Scott Skiles early in the third quarter.
Morris then took over, scoring 12 points in an 18-8 burst that he capped with three consecutive dunks.
Anthony Bowie and Nick Anderson each had 31 points for Orlando, which never threatened in the fourth quarter.
Knicks 114, Bucks 103
At Milwaukee, the New York Knicks kept alive their chances for an Atlanta Division title by holding off a late rally and beating the Milwaukee Bucks behind the scoring of Mark Jackson and John Starks.
Jackson scored a season-high 31 points and Starks added 27 for New York, which scored the last 11 points after the Bucks had tied it 103-103 with 3:50 left.
The Knicks finished the regular season 51-31 and are a half-game ahead of Boston, which hosts Miami on Sunday. The Heat must beat the Celtics for the Knicks to win the division title, which would give them the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Down by 17 after three quarters, the Bucks rallied with a 26-9 run featuring two 3-pointers each by Brad Lohaus and Dale Ellis to force a 103-103 tie with 3:50 left.
But Xavier McDaniel hit a short shot and the Knicks weren't headed again.
Starks had a four-point play and two 3-pointers and Jackson had a 3-pointer and a three-point play in a 26-10 run that put the Knicks up 94-77 after three periods.
Lohaus, Moses Malone and Ellis scored 17 points each for Milwaukee, which finished 31-51, the third-worst record in team history.
The game could have been the last for Bucks coach Frank Hamblen, who took over 17 games into the season. The Bucks missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.