The New York Knicks are back in the playoffs, clinching their first postseason berth since 2004 with a 123-107 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday behind 28 points from Amare Stoudemire.
Shortly after Charlotte’s home loss to Washington, the Knicks snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Cavaliers to secure their spot. They are seventh in the Eastern Conference, but closed within 1 1/2 games of the 76ers, with a game in Philadelphia this week.
Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points and Chauncey Billups added 23 for New York, which was tied with Minnesota for the NBA’s longest playoff absence. The Knicks evened their record at 38-38 as they try to end an even longer drought, a franchise-worst stretch of nine straight losing seasons.
Stoudemire proclaimed the Knicks were back even before officially signing in July, and snapped out of a recent slump in time to ensure the return of playoff basketball to Madison Square Garden.
New York hasn’t seen the postseason since it was swept in four games by New Jersey in 2004. The Knicks will likely face either Miami or Boston, hoping Stoudemire, Anthony, and Billups can match whichever Big Three they draw.
J.J. Hickson had 23 points and Baron Davis added 22 for the Cavaliers, who hadn’t lost to the Knicks since Dec. 19, 2007, at Madison Square Garden.
Nuggets 95, Lakers 90 — Danilo Gallinari scored 22 points, Kenyon Martin scored 6 of his 18 in the final 3:24, and stubborn Denver hung on in Los Angeles to extend its winning streak to six games.
Kobe Bryant scored 28 points for the Lakers, whose loss ended a nine-game winning streak and dropped them 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference.
It was only the second defeat in 19 games for the Lakers since the All-Star break. The other came against Miami March 10.
Spurs 114, Suns 97 — George Hill scored 29 points and host San Antonio stopped the longest skid of Tim Duncan’s career, beating up Phoenix and ending a six-game losing streak.
It was a cathartic rout for San Antonio after going winless for two weeks and squandering a once-comfortable lead in the West. Aaron Brooks and Channing Frye had 14 points apiece for the Suns. The loss guaranteed Phoenix will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
Matt Bonner added 16 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio (58-19), which remains the NBA’s winningest team, but lost its air of dominance during the longest slide of Duncan’s 14-year career.
Heat 108, Nets 94 — LeBron James had 31 points and 11 rebounds and Miami opened a 16-point first-quarter lead and never looked back at Newark.
Dwyane Wade added 18 points despite a first-quarter thigh injury and Chris Bosh had 16 as the Heat won their third straight and eighth in nine games.
Deron Williams had 18 points and 12 assists to lead the Nets.
Raptors 102, Magic 98 — DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Jerryd Bayless had 21 top help host Toronto beat Orlando to snap a six-game losing streak.
Dwight Howard had 31 points and nine rebounds and Jameer Nelson scored 21 points for the Magic, who have lost three of four.
Wizards 97, Bobcats 91 — Andray Blatche had 25 points and 17 rebounds, Jordan Crawford added 23 points and Washington made it two straight road wins while putting a dent in Charlotte’s postseason hopes.
After a 1-35 start away from home that threatened to match an NBA record for futility, the Wizards followed a victory at Utah last week by building a 19-point third-quarter lead in a ragged game in which each team dressed only nine players.
Kings 106, Jazz 97 — Tyreke Evans had 24 points and 10 assists to help host Sacramento end a two-game losing streak.
Rockets 114, Hawks 109 — Kevin Martin scored 35 points and Luis Scola added 12 of his 15 in the second half to lead Houston past Atlanta for its seventh straight home win.
Hornets 108, Pacers 96 — Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and Chris Paul added 18 points and eight assists to lead New Orleans past visiting Indiana.
Trail Blazers 104, Mavericks 96 — Gerald Wallace scored 19 points as host Portland thumped Dallas.