Byron Scott accepted his NBA coach of the year award, then guided his team to the second round of the playoffs.
Chris Paul had 24 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds, and the host New Orleans Hornets held on for a 99-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks last night to win their first-round series in five games. The Hornets will face the Spurs in the second round beginning Saturday in New Orleans.
David West scored 25 for New Orleans and Jannero Pargo had 17, while Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Devean George added 11 points in the fourth quarter as Dallas nearly pulled off an improbable comeback. The Mavs cut a 17-point deficit to 3 in the final seven minutes before Peja Stojakovic hit a pair of free throws to seal it with 5.7 seconds left.
Tempers flared near the end, and Jerry Stackhouse was ejected for a second technical foul with 1:47 left after slapping the ball out of Paul's hands during a stoppage in play, then getting in a face-to-face standoff with West.
Dallas never led and was hurt badly by an 11-1 Hornets run after Nowitzki's free throw had pulled the Mavs to 73-66 early in the fourth quarter.
Dallas played solid defense on New Orleans's next possession, keeping the ball on the perimeter, but Pargo hit a deflating three at the buzzer.
Jason Kidd finished with 14 points and nine assists, Jason Terry had 13 points, and Josh Howard had 12 for the Mavericks. Stackhouse had 11 points.
Pistons 98, 76ers 81 - Chauncey Billups scored 21 points, Richard Hamilton had 20, and Rasheed Wallace added 19 to lift the host Pistons to a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.
Detroit leads in the series for the first time after being the first team to win consecutive games.
If the Pistons win Game 6 tomorrow night in Philadelphia or Game 7 at home, they will advance in the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.
The third-seeded Orlando Magic, who eliminated Toronto Monday night, await the winner in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Andre Iguodala scored a career playoff-high 21 points, finally putting together a night that resembled his play in the regular season, but he didn't have much help.
None of his teammates reached double figures until Andre Miller did in the third quarter, but the point guard missed nine shots in a row in the first half when the game was relatively close.
Billups, Wallace, and Hamilton combined for 58 points through three quarters, outscoring the Sixers until Rodney Carney made a three to end the quarter, cutting their deficit to 20 points.
Detroit's Tayshaun Prince finished with 17 points, giving the balanced team a fourth option offensively.
Miller finished with 13 points and reserve Louis Williams scored 13.
Spurs 92, Suns 87 - Tony Parker scored 31 points, Tim Duncan added 29 points and 17 rebounds, and San Antonio advanced to the Western Conference semifinals against the Hornets with a victory at home.
Boris Diaw, who had a near triple-double in the Suns' rout of the Spurs in Game 4, led Phoenix with 22 points.
Four other players scored in double digits, but the Suns had a number of costly turnovers down the stretch and were sent home yet again by the Spurs, who have eliminated Phoenix in four of their last five playoff appearances.
Rockets 95, Jazz 69 - Tracy McGrady scored 29 points, Luis Scola added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the Rockets staved off elimination in Houston by routing Utah in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 10 rebounds as the Rockets cut their series deficit to 3-2 and forced Game 6 in Utah Friday night.
Now, the Jazz can end the series at home, where they went 37-4 during the regular season. But it's no guarantee - Houston was the first team to beat Utah in Salt Lake City during the regular season and won Game 3 there last Thursday.
The Rockets did everything they hadn't done for most of the series. They shot well, hit their free throws, and got valuable production off the bench.
Carlos Boozer led Utah with 19 points and 10 rebounds.