Suns and Sixers clinch NBA postseason berths

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Chris Paul scored 28 points as the Phoenix Suns punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time in 11 years with a 109-101 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Paul scored 15 of his points in the fourth quarter. The Suns improved to 44-18 on the season and are now two games ahead of the third place Clippers and one game back of the Utah Jazz (45-17) atop the West.

The Suns were coming off an East Coast road trip where they went 3-2, including snapping the New York Knicks' nine-game winning streak.

Paul also had 10 assists and three steals and Devin Booker added 21 points and six rebounds against the Clippers.

Clippers new signee DeMarcus Cousins did not play Wednesday after scoring 16 points in their last game. Los Angeles was without all-star Kawhi Leonard (foot) for a fifth straight game.

Paul George had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcus Morris added 16 points in the loss.

In Philadelphia, Seth Curry scored 20 points as the Philadelphia 76ers clinched a playoff spot with a 127-83 rout of the short-handed Atlanta Hawks.

Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris each finished with 17 points and seven rebounds as the Sixers rolled over the Hawks, getting double figure scoring from a half dozen players in the 44-point victory.

The Sixers improved to 41-21 on the season by using a balanced attack that saw all 15 players get on the scoresheet.

"Coming into the season, our goal was to win a championship," Embiid said. "There are a lot of steps to get there. But we have everything we need to make it happen."

Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz scored 12 apiece and Tyrese Maxey had 11 for Philadelphia.

John Collins finished with 21 points, Solomon Hill tallied 14, Skylar Mays had 11 and Lou Williams 10 in the loss.

The under-manned Hawks played without key players including Trae Young (left ankle), Cam Reddish (right Achilles) and De'Andre Hunter (right knee).

Clint Capela finished with eight rebounds, snapping his double-figure rebounding streak at 14 straight games.

In Washington, Bradley Beal scored a team high 27 points and Russell Westbrook recorded a triple double of 18 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists as the Washington Wizards defeated the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 116-107.

The Wizards boosted their playoff chances by improving to 28-34 on the season as Westbrook posted his 30th triple double of the season. The Wizards currently hold the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings.

- Playoff boost -

"We earned that win with what we've done," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks. "We've got two really high, high-level players, but our other guys are coming along."

Anthony Davis scored a team high 26 points for the Lakers, who shot 43 percent and grabbed just 49 rebounds compared to the Wizards' 61.

Andre Drummond had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost four of five.

Westbrook fed Smith for a dunk with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter to extend the Washington lead to 19 points. Back-to-back dunks by Ben McLemore and Davis made it 102-93 with 5:29 remaining.

But Westbrook scored on a driving layup and Beal drained a three-pointer to make it 112-98 with just over three minutes left and the Wizards would cruise from there.

In Salt Lake City, Bojan Bogdanovic scored 24 points as the Utah Jazz set a franchise record for most points in a game by clobbering the hapless Sacramento King 154-105 in Sacramento. Eight players were in double figures for Utah.