(AFP) – The Chicago Bulls rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to shock the Houston Rockets 103-100 and boost their NBA playoff hopes.
Nikola Mirotic drained a go-ahead three-pointer with less than three minutes to play and Houston’s Trevor Ariza saw an attempted game-tying three-pointer fail at the buzzer.
Mirotic scored a game-high 28 points. His three-pointer from the corner with 2:56 remaining put the Bulls up 92-91 and was followed by a dunk from Jimmy Butler and a three-pointer from E’Twaun Moore that stretched Chicago’s lead to 97-91 with 1:30 remaining.
“We’re fighting for our lives,” said Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg of the crucial win in a game between two teams jockeying for the final playoff spots in their respective conferences.
The Bulls were without Taj Gibson, who has a broken rib, and Derrick Rose didn’t play the second half because of his bruised left elbow.
But the Bulls reserves scored 67 points and Chicago out-scored the Rockets 32-20 in the fourth quarter to come up with the win.
The Bulls now trail Indiana by one game for the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers fell 114-94 to the Orlando Magic in Indianapolis on Thursday, and Chicago hold the tiebreaker over Indiana.
James Harden led the Rockets with 24 points. Houston are half a game behind Utah and Dallas, who with matching records of 37-38 occupy the last two spots in the West.
– James rises on scoring list –
In Cleveland, LeBron James scored 24 points to move into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list as the Cavaliers thumped the Brooklyn Nets 107-87.
James, who also handed out 11 assists, has 26,689 points in his career and moved past Dominique Wilkins on the scoring chart. He is 21 points behind Oscar Robertson for 11th, and can surpass him on Friday when Cleveland visit Atlanta.
“I’ve been very durable throughout my career and I’ve played with some great teammates and two great organizations all my career that allowed me to put the ball in the basket,” James said of moving up the scoring list.
“They’ve set screens for me, they gave me passes in transition, they set me up offensively and I’ve been able to come through for my teammates. So this results in that being the case.”
Kevin Love scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Channing Frye came off the bench to contribute 13 points for the Cavs, who lost to the Nets in Brooklyn last week.
The Cavaliers moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors atop the Eastern Conference, inching closer to securing home court advantage in the East.
– Portland turn tables on Boston –
Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds as the Trail Blazers rallied for a 116-109 victory over the Boston Celtics in Portland.
CJ McCollum added 17 points and eight assists and Gerald Henderson came off the bench to score 15 points for a Portland team that had fallen 116-93 to the Celtics in Boston on March 2.
The win moved the Trail Blazers to within 1 1/2 games of the Western Conference’s fifth-place Memphis Grizzlies with six games to play in the regular season.
The defeat dropped Boston from fourth to sixth in the East, half a game behind Miami and Charlotte.
– Thunder edge Clippers –
Kevin Durant scored 31 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a narrow 119-117 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Durant connected on 10-for-22 from the field and notched his 60th straight game with at least 20 points.
Russell Westbrook added 26 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
Playing without their five regular starters, the Clippers got a career-high 32 points from Austin Rivers and 32 from Jamal Crawford.