CLEVELAND - LeBron James watched from the bench in street clothes as Norris Cole stripped Kyrie Irving of the ball with 2.2 seconds left to give the Miami Heat, resting most of their top players for the playoffs, a 96-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.
Cole finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. But it was his only steal on Cleveland's final possession that sealed it.
James was disappointed to not play in another homecoming game against his former team, but he appreciated coach Erik Spoelstra's desire to get the NBA champions as healthy and refreshed as possible heading into the post-season. Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers joined James on the bench while Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem stayed back in Miami with minor injuries.
Rashard Lewis scored 19 points and James Jones had 14 for the Heat Light.
Irving and Tristan Thompson scored 16 apiece for the Cavs, who have lost five straight, 15 of 17 and may soon relieve Byron Scott of his coaching duties.
THUNDER 104, KINGS 95
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Russell Westbrook had 21 before getting ejected in the final 3 minutes and the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs by beating the Sacramento Kings.
Tyreke Evans, the Kings' second-leading scorer, did not return after grabbing at his troublesome left knee following a drive to the basket late in the first quarter.
Durant hit a 3-pointer and Westbrook set up Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam during a string of 11 straight Thunder points midway through the third quarter that stretched the lead to 75-51.
Isaiah Thomas led the Kings with 16 points, Travis Outlaw scored 15 and Cole Aldrich had a double-double for the second straight game by tying his career best with 12 points and setting a career high with 13 rebounds.
NUGGETS 112, BUCKS 111
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Ty Lawson scored 26 points, including a jumper in the lane with 9.3 seconds left, and the Denver Nuggets clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wilson Chandler added 21 points for the Nuggets, who can secure the No. 3 seed in the West with one more victory or two losses by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Milwaukee lost its season-high fifth game in a row despite Monta Ellis scoring 38 points, one shy of his season high.
PISTONS 109, 76ERS 101
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Greg Monroe had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and the Detroit Pistons made the most of their home finale by beating the Philadelphia 76ers.
For both teams, the game was overshadowed by uncertainty off the court. Doug Collins is on his way out as Philadelphia's coach, and Pistons owner Tom Gores remained noncommittal before the game on the status of team president Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank.
A person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press that Collins and the Sixers are trying to resolve their future relationship after the coach told them he would not return for a fourth season.
Dorell Wright had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers.
JAZZ 96, TIMBERWOLVES 80
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds to help Utah keep its playoff hopes alive with a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mo Williams had 15 points and seven assists for the Jazz, who needed a win to avoid being eliminated in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Jazz need to win at Memphis on Wednesday and for the Los Angeles Lakers to lose at home against Houston that night to get into the playoffs. They own the tiebreaker after beating the Lakers two out of three times this season.
Derrick Williams had 18 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing centre Nikola Pekovic with a bruised left calf.
GRIZZLIES 103, MAVERICKS 97
DALLAS (AP) — Keyon Dooling scored 13 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer before consecutive baskets by Ed Davis, to help Memphis rally for the victory.
Jerryd Bayless had 19 points and the Grizzlies' bench accounted for 64 points — all 35 in the decisive fourth quarter. Dooling, who signed April 3 as a free agent, had only 12 points combined his first five games.
Memphis will start the playoffs on the road even though it can finish with one of the top four records in the Western Conference.
Clean-shaven Dirk Nowitzki had 26 points and Vince Carter 22 for the Mavs, who had finally reached .500 for the first time since Dec. 12 with a win at New Orleans on Sunday night. They had vowed not to shave until reaching .500 — though it lasted only one night.
BULLS 102, MAGIC 84
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Carlos Boozer scored 22 points, Luol Deng added 18 and the Chicago Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak with a victory over the Orlando Magic.
The win, which was the Bulls' fifth straight over the Magic, also keeps alive their hopes of catching of Atlanta for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They conclude their regular-season schedule at home Wednesday against Washington. Chicago needs to win that game and for Atlanta to split or lose their final two.
Tobias Harris led Orlando with 20 points, followed by Nik Vucevic with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Magic finish just 12-29 at home, their fewest victories in Orlando since they were 11-30 during the 2003-04. Orlando wraps up its schedule Wednesday in Miami.
BOBCATS 106, KNICKS 95
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Gerald Henderson scored 27 points, Kemba Walker had 23 points and a career-high 13 assists and the Charlotte Bobcats defeated a New York Knicks team playing without Carmelo Anthony and a few others.
The victory was the second straight for the Bobcats, who pulled into a tie with Orlando for the worst record in the league.
The Knicks played only seven players, resting Anthony and others after wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin also did not play.
Chris Copeland led the Knicks with 32 points, shooting 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
NETS 106, WIZARDS 101
NEW YORK (AP) — Andray Blatche led a bevy of Brooklyn bench players with 20 points and 11 rebounds the Nets erased an early 17-point deficit to beat the Washington Wizards.
Kris Humphries, who was the team's original starting power forward at the beginning of the season before falling out of the rotation, added 20 points and nine boards for Brooklyn. Mirza Teletovic added 14 points and MarShon Brooks chipped in 12 for the Nets, who will host Detroit on Wednesday night before they open up at home in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Nets reserve rookie Toko Shengelia, who has played 67 minutes all season, saw 25 minutes and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
John Wall led Washington, which lost its fifth straight, with 18 points and 12 assists.
SUNS 119, ROCKETS 112
PHOENIX (AP) — Luis Scola had 26 points and 15 rebounds, Goran Dragic added 21 points and 14 assists and Phoenix snapped a franchise-record seven-game home losing streak with a victory over the Houston Rockets in the Suns' final home game of the season.
Markieff Morris had 20 points and had career highs of six blocked shots and five steals for the Suns, who despite the victory finished with the second-worst home record in club history.
Carlos Delfino scored 22, including 6 of 9 3-pointers, and Jeremy Lin 20 for the Rockets, whose loss was a blow in their bid for the No. 6 playoff spot in the West.
WARRIORS 116, SPURS 106
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry made seven 3-pointers to finish with 35 points, leading the Golden State Warriors past the severely short-handed San Antonio Spurs.
Curry shot 7 of 13 from beyond the arc to move within one of Ray Allen's single-season record of 269 3-pointers set in 2005-06 with Seattle. Curry added eight rebounds and five assists to help the Warriors pull away late and move a game ahead of Houston for the Western Conference's sixth seed.
Gary Neal had 25 points and five assists and Patty Mills scored 23 points for the Spurs, who rested their key starters a night after losing 91-86 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers.