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Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2004

Celtics reach playoffs; Wolves top seed

April 15, 2004

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— The Boston Celtics charged into the playoffs with their best offensive performance of the season, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 137-132, behind Marcus Banks' career-high 28 points Wednesday night.

It was an extreme change for a team that lost its previous five games and got into the playoffs when Philadelphia was eliminated Sunday night. The Celtics will face Indiana in the first round.

Atlanta won its three previous games, but missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year. Bobby Sura had a disappointing finish, scoring 14 points in the first half but missing the rest of the game with a strained left hamstring.

On Monday night, Sura deliberately missed a shot and got the rebound, initially giving him his third straight triple-double. But the NBA disallowed the rebound, leaving Sura with 22 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a 129-107 win over New Jersey.

Boston's previous high point total this season was 126 points at Seattle on Dec. 10. But the Hawks' total was a season-high against the Celtics, who gave up 127 at Sacramento on Dec. 17.

Atlanta's season highs are 138 points scored and 136 points allowed.

Mark Blount scored 27 points and Ricky Davis had 24 for Boston, which played without Paul Pierce. He missed his second straight game because a sprained ankle.

The Hawks were led by Stephen Jackson and Chris Crawford with 24 points each and Jason Terry with 20.

Terry's three-pointer cut Boston's lead to 115-113 with 7:24 left in the game, but the Celtics scored the next eight points on two free throws by Banks and two three-pointers by Davis, making it 123-113 with 6:10 remaining.

Timberwolves 107, Grizzlies 90

Memphis, Tenn. -- Minnesota wrapped up the top seed in the Western Conference with a victory over Memphis in which Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and Latrell Sprewell added 20. The Timberwolves ended the season with nine straight victories. They dominated from the start, leading by as many as 29 points early in the fourth quarter. Minnesota was so comfortable by the final period that the starters stayed on the bench.

Memphis, already guaranteed the sixth seed in the playoffs, have lost four straight and six of their last seven.

Sam Cassell and reserve Wally Szczerbiak added 17 each for the Timberwolves, who shot 54 percent for the night. Memphis hit 41 percent of its shots from the field.

Mavericks 92, Rockets 89

Houston -- Marquis Daniels scored 21 points, leading Dallas over Houston. Antawn Jamison had 18 points for Dallas, which has won seven of the last eight games and 11 of 14 against Houston. Scott Padgett had a season-high 18 points to lead the Rockets.

Cavaliers 100, Knicks 90

New York -- LeBron James finished his rookie season on a winning note, scoring 17 points as Cleveland defeated New York. It was a quality season-ending win for the Cavs, given that the Knicks used their starters throughout the fourth quarter, but were outplayed by a lottery-bound team that had lost 12 of its previous 15 games.

Hornets 94, Wizards 78

Washington -- Baron Davis scored 26 points and Jamaal Magloire had 23 points and 14 rebounds for New Orleans. The Hornets (41-41) also avoided their first losing season since 1991-92.

Spurs 93, Nuggets 67

San Antonio -- Tim Duncan had 23 points and 16 rebounds for San Antonio, which recovered from a woeful first half to end the regular season with its 11th straight victory. The Spurs broke the game open in the third quarter by scoring 32 points -- doubling their point production of the first two periods -- while holding the Nuggets to 5-for-19 shooting.

Suns 89, Jazz 84

Salt Lake City -- Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points and Shawn Marion had 19 to lead Phoenix over Utah, guaranteeing the Suns wouldn't finish alone at the bottom of the Western Conference. Phoenix finished 29-53, avoiding tying the 1987-88 team's 28-54 finish for second worst in Suns history.

Pacers 101, Bulls 96

Indianapolis -- Jonathan Bender and Austin Croshere fueled an 11-2 fourth-quarter run to propel Indiana over Chicago. The Bulls opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 90-81 lead with just over nine minutes to play. The loss marked a bitter end to another disappointing season for Chicago, which finished 23-59. Jamal Crawford scored 31 points, but was held to just eight in the second half as the Bulls slowly let a comfortable lead slip away.

Raptors 89, Bucks 87

Milwaukee -- Milwaukee lost a fourth-quarter lead for the third straight game, falling to Toronto and squandering home-court advantage in the playoffs. The Bucks began the night in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but both Miami and New Orleans leapfrogged them, relegating Milwaukee to the sixth spot and a first-round matchup with Detroit. Jalen Rose's wide-open three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left put the lottery-bound Raptors ahead 89-87. The Bucks called a timeout and then another with 4.2 seconds left. Redd pulled up for a potential game-winning 3-pointer, but it banged off the right of the rim just before the buzzer.

Heat 96, Nets 84

Miami -- Caron Butler scored 22 points and Dwyane Wade sparked a third-quarter surge to help Miami finish with its first winning record in three years. Miami, which lost 103 games the past two seasons, finished 42-40 under first-year coach Stan Van Gundy. The Heat started 0-7 and were 11 games below .500 on March 2, but won 17 of their last 21.

Magic 95, 76ers 89

Orlando, Fla. -- Juwan Howard scored 26 points, leading Orlando over Philadelphia. Tyronn Lue added 17 points and Andrew DeClercq had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, winners of two straight following a 13-game losing streak. The Magic (21-61) won their fewest games since the 1991-92 season. A three-year streak of playoff appearances also ended. Samuel Dalembert had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, which ended the season on a four-game slide. Kenny Thomas had 18 points.

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