Paul, Clippers best Wizards
LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Blake Griffin scored six points in his return from a three-month absence to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Washington Wizards, 114-109, on Sunday.
Griffin shot 2 of 7 and contributed five rebounds and two assists while playing 24 minutes after missing 45 games because of quadriceps and hand injuries. The team went 30-15 and clinched a playoff spot during his absence.
Marcin Gortat scored 21 points and Markieff Morris added 18 for the Wizards, who never led in losing for the fifth time in seven games.
CAVALIERS 112, HORNETS 103: At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 31 points, J.R. Smith matched a season high with 27 and the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked down 16 3-pointers while playing without an injured Kyrie Irving in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.
James added 12 assists and eight rebounds and Kevin Love added 25 points for the Cavs, who held off a comeback in the fourth quarter to open a 3½-game lead over idle Toronto for the top playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Smith made six 3-pointers and Love had five.
Kemba Walker scored 29 points — 21 in the second half — and Marvin Williams added 22 for the Hornets, who got within 96-92 in the fourth before Smith and Love answered with 3-pointers.
ROCKETS 118, THUNDER 110: At Houston, James Harden had 41 points with nine assists to help the Houston Rockets improve their playoff chances with a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With 30 seconds left, Harden stole a pass from Kevin Durant and found Patrick Beverley for a transition dunk to give Houston an eight-point lead and the Rockets held on for an important victory.
Durant had 33 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who led by six early in the fourth until Harden hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 93. Oklahoma City lost for just the second time in the past three weeks and had won nine of its previous 10 entering Sunday.
MAVERICKS 88, TIMBERWOLVES 78: At Minneapolis, Wesley Matthews hit six 3-pointers and scored 19 points and the Dallas Mavericks topped the Minnesota Timberwolves.
J.J. Barea scored 21 points and the Mavericks (39-38) made 14 of 40 3-pointers to overcome 38.6 percent shooting for their fourth straight victory. They forced 18 turnovers and held their opponent under 100 points for the fourth straight game as they push for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists for the Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio had nine points and five assists, but left with four minutes to play after taking a shot to the face.
PELICANS 106, NETS 87: At New York, Tim Frazier had career highs with 19 points and 13 assists, Luke Babbitt added 21 points and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Brooklyn Nets.
Alexis Ajinca added 16 for the Pelicans as the Nets lost their fifth straight game.
Sean Kilpatrick led the Nets with 15 points. Henry Sims and Markel Brown each had 12 for the Nets.
JAZZ 101, SUNS 86: At Phoenix, Gordon Hayward led five Utah players in double figures with 22 points, and the Jazz boosted their playoff chances with a win over the Phoenix Suns.
Rodney Hood added 18 points, Derrick Favors had 17, Trey Lyles 13 and Rudy Gobert 12 for the Jazz, who scored 26 points off 22 Suns turnovers and committed only 10 turnovers themselves.
Mirza Teletovic led the Suns with 24 points, and Tyson Chandler added a season-high 21 to go with 18 rebounds. Phoenix has lost six straight.
MAGIC 119, GRIZZLIES 107: At Orlando, Fla., Nikola Vucevic scored 25 points off the bench, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier added 22 points each and the Orlando Magic topped the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies, trying to hold onto the fifth seed in the Western Conference, have lost six straight games for their longest skid since November 2009.
Memphis was led by Matt Barnes, who had 24 points.
BULLS 102, BUCKS 98: At Milwaukee, Jimmy Butler scored 25 points on 10-of-11 shooting, Pau Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds and the Chicago Bulls held off a second-half surge by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler had six points and an assist in the final 3:45, when the Bucks had narrowed a 19-point deficit to one at 87-86.
Justin Holiday hit a tough jumper from the corner with 1:15 left and later grabbed a defensive rebound on a missed finger roll by Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo with 43.9 seconds to go.
PACERS 92, KNICKS 87: At New York, Paul George returned from an injured ankle to make the tiebreaking jumper with 23.6 seconds left, and the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks to tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers blew an 18-point lead in the second half against a Knicks team missing its two best scorers, but recovered to join Detroit at 41-36 and stay two games ahead of ninth-place Chicago.
CELTICS 107, LAKERS 100: At Los Angeles, Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points and the Boston Celtics clinched a playoff berth while besting Kobe Bryant for the final time.
Jae Crowder added 22 points for the Celtics, who blew an early 17-point lead and survived a tense fourth quarter in their first game since snapping the Golden State Warriors' NBA-record 54-game home winning streak.