Nets wrap up Atlantic thanks to 76ers loss

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2003

CHICAGO Eddy Curry made his first eight shots on his way to a career-high 31 points, and Jamal Crawford matched his career best with 33 as the Chicago Bulls beat the Philadelphia 76ers 115-106 Tuesday night.

The Bulls kept the 76ers from clinching home-court advantage in the first round and also handed New Jersey the Atlantic Division title.

It was the third straight loss for the 76ers, who dropped into a tie with Indiana for third place in the Eastern Conference. Both teams wrap up their regular seasons Wednesday night, and the Pacers have the edge in the tiebreaker if the teams wind up with the same record.

A loss Wednesday could drop Philadelphia as low as fifth in the East.

Pacers 109, Knicks 93

NEW YORK Tim Hardaway made all four of his shots while playing the final 16 minutes of the first half, helping the Pacers clinch home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest scored 23 points each and Ron Mercer had 17 for the Pacers, who can move up to third place in the Eastern Conference if they finish tied with Philadelphia. Both teams conclude their regular seasons Wednesday night.

Hardaway had 12 points, four assists and three rebounds before sitting out the entire second half. The Pacers outscored New York 48-36 when the 36-year-old playmaker was on the floor.

Lee Nailon and Shandon Anderson scored 13 apiece to lead the Knicks, who learned earlier in the day that coach Don Chaney was given a two-year contract extension that will keep him with the club through the 2005-06 season.

The Knicks finished 37-45, a seven-game improvement off a year ago, when they missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Raptors 103, Heat 99

TORONTO In what probably was the final home game for Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens, Rasual Butler scored 19 points and Mike James added 15 for the Heat, who ended the season 25-57.

Wilkens, a Hall of Famer who holds the NBA coaching record for both wins and losses, is expected to be fired after the season. The Raptors play their final game in Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Morris Peterson had a career-high 33 for the lottery-bound Raptors. The injury-riddled Raptors have lost seven straight, and they played just seven players against Miami.

Afterward, Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald grabbed a microphone and told the crowd, We will not stand for this any longer.''

Rockets 97, Grizzlies 86

HOUSTON Steve Francis scored 19 points in the Rockets' final game at Compaq Center before moving to a $202 million downtown arena next season.

The Rockets won the first game played at Compaq Center and they were never in trouble in winning their last game, using a 20-5 spurt to end the first quarter with a comfortable lead. Houston is 42-39, but did not make the playoffs. The Rockets compiled a 747-383 record in 28 seasons at Compaq Center for a .661 percentage. They have a 56-36 home playoff record that helped them win NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.

James Posey has 16 points and a season-high 15 rebounds and Cuttino Mobley added 18 points. Terence Morris had a career-high 17 points.

Trail Blazers 120, Suns 102

PORTLAND, Ore. After losing their first three games against the Suns this season, the Blazers routed Phoenix. Zach Randolph scored 27 points starting for injured center Dale Davis, and Portland saw the return of veteran guard Scottie Pippen, who was back in Portland's lineup after knee surgery sidelined him for 17 games.

The win helped Portland in its heated scramble with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers for the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds in the Western Conference. If the Blazers win their final game against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, they'll be guaranteed at least the fifth seed. To finish fourth and earn home-court advantage for the first round, the Blazers must beat the Clippers and the Timberwolves must lose their final game in Memphis.

Lakers 126, Nuggets 104

LOS ANGELES Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his 32 points in the first quarter, and Shaquille O'Neal added 19 points. The win was the seventh in eight games for the three-time defending NBA champions, but they lost any chance of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs when Portland beat Phoenix.

The Lakers will finish fifth or sixth in the Western Conference, depending on what happens Wednesday night in the final games of the regular season. They open the playoffs Saturday or Sunday at Dallas, Minnesota or Portland.

If Minnesota beats Memphis and Portland beats the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will finish sixth and face Dallas in the first round.

Rookie Jannero Pargo scored a career-high 18 points for the Lakers, who won their 15th straight home game.

Juwan Howard scored 19 points and Marcus Camby had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who have lost seven straight games and 13 of their last 16.

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