DALLAS (AP) – The Phoenix Suns might as well get started on their offseason plans. Jason Kidd made sure of it.

Kidd had 19 points, a season-high 20 assists and a major career milestone – all in just three quarters – sending Dallas to a 140-116 victory over Phoenix on Sunday, virtually assuring the Mavericks of grabbing no worse than the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Dallas owns a four-game lead with five games left. Because the Mavs won the season series, they hold the tiebreaker over the Suns, so Phoenix must finish 5-0 and Dallas 0-5 for the teams to trade places in the standings.

Put another way, any Mavs win or Suns loss clinches a ninth straight postseason trip for Dallas and ends a streak of four straight playoff trips for Phoenix.

Kidd’s 14th assist gave him 10,142 for his career, passing Magic Johnson for No. 3 on the NBA’s list. Among those who gave him a standing ovation was broadcaster Mark Jackson, who is second with 10,334.

Dirk Nowitzki made 10 of 12 shots and scored 28 points for Dallas, marking his 20th straight game with at least 20 points.

Leandro Barbosa had 24 points and Grant Hill finished with 23 for the Suns.

Cavaliers 101, Spurs 81

CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James scored 38 points, Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece and the NBA’s best home team avoided its first three-game losing streak.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss in Orlando, a humbling defeat that came one day after a humiliating loss at lowly Washington, Cleveland played with purpose at both ends and improved to 37-1 at home. If they can win their final three home games, the Cavs would match the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (40-1) for the best home record in NBA history.

Tony Parker scored 24 for San Antonio but got no help from Manu Ginobili (four points) or Tim Duncan, who had just six and didn’t score after the 2:56 mark of the first quarter.

Pistons 104, Bobcats 97

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Will Bynum scored a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Detroit past the Charlotte Bobcats and putting the Pistons a step closer to locking up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bynum scored the final 13 points for the Pistons and finished with a career-high 32 points, and also had seven assists. He made all six of his field-goal attempts and went 14-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

The win was the third for Detroit in four meetings with Charlotte this season and leaves the Pistons three games ahead of the Bobcats with five games remaining.

D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 22 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.

Knicks 112, Raptors 103

TORONTO (AP) – Wilson Chandler scored 17 points, David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the New York Knicks beat the Raptors, eliminating Toronto from the playoffs.

It came one day after the Knicks saw their postseason hopes end with a 102-95 home loss to the Raptors.

New York’s victory snapped a nine-game losing streak in Toronto. The Knicks had not won north of the border since March 5, 2004. Quentin Richardson added 16 points for the Knicks, who snapped a four-game losing streak and won for the first time in six tries on the road.

Chris Bosh had 31 points and 14 rebounds for Toronto, whose season-high six-game winning streak came to an end.

Jazz 108, Hornets 94

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Ronnie Brewer scored 23 points and the Utah Jazz completed a convincing season sweep of the New Orleans Hornets.

Deron Williams had 21 points and 11 assists for Utah, which led by 30 in the second quarter and snapped a three-game skid with its first road victory against a winning team in the Western Conference this season.

David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory, but instead lost its second straight game. Chris Paul had 19 points and 12 assists for the Hornets, who lost all three games against Utah this season by double-digit margins.

Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 87

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and the Denver Nuggets easily won their seventh in a row, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Nuggets extended their lead to two games over San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after the Spurs lost to Cleveland earlier in the day.

Sebastian Telfair had 18 points to lead the Wolves, who played without four of their top six scorers.

Rockets 102, Trail Blazers 88

HOUSTON (AP) – Yao Ming had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Houston past Portland, just hours after the Trail Blazers got their first playoff berth since 2003 when Dallas beat Phoenix 140-116.

With their playoff spot assured, the Trail Blazers didn’t lead after early in the first quarter, but wouldn’t go away. They made a run each time Houston got a comfortable lead until the Rockets finally put it away in the fourth quarter.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and nine rebounds for Portland.

Nets 96, 76ers 67

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Vince Carter scored 15 points and the New Jersey Nets kept their playoff hopes alive for a couple more days by handing the Philadelphia 76ers their worst loss of the season.

The Nets (32-45) were pushed to the brink of elimination while their game was being contested when the Detroit Pistons (37-40) beat the Charlotte Hornets 104-97, but they stayed mathematically alive by getting double figures from seven players.

New Jersey and Detroit each have five games left. New Jersey will miss the postseason for the second straight year if it loses one or the Pistons win one.

Sixth man Lou Williams had 14 points to lead the Sixers, who looked drained a day after beating Detroit to clinch a second straight playoff berth.


AP-ES-04-05-09 2202EDT

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