New Jersey Nets forward Vince Carter, right, closes his eyes as he slams a dunk over Boston Celtics forward Al Jefferson during the third quarter in Boston, Wednesday April 20, 2005.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
BOSTON Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets clinched the NBA's last playoff berth with a shaky start and a strong finish the same way the team's season went.
Carter shook off an early injury and scored 24 of his 37 points in the second half to lead the Nets' comeback from a 19-point, second-quarter deficit in a 102-93 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
New Jersey needed to make one final rally after the Celtics used an 8-0 run to close to 96-93 with 1:16 left. The Nets scored the final six points, all on free throws, then shook hands with Boston players and walked calmly off the court.
The Nets got the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and will play at top-seeded Miami on Sunday. The Celtics, who had already clinched the No. 3 seed, will open their first-round series at home against Indiana on Saturday night.
Had the Nets lost, they would have been eliminated because Cleveland won at Toronto. Both teams finished 42-40, but the Nets had the tiebreaker edge by winning the season series over the Cavaliers.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 21 points.
Cavaliers 104, Raptors 95
TORONTO LeBron James had 27 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds to lead Cleveland, but the Cavs missed the playoffs when New Jersey beat Boston.
James did what he could, and by halftime was only one rebound short of a triple-double as Cleveland led by 15. The 20-year-old star recorded his fourth triple-double of the season by grabbing a rebound just 23 seconds into the second half, and the Cavaliers began the half with a 16-2 run that included two 3-pointers by James.
Cleveland lost seven of its last 11 games.
Jalen Rose had 25 points for the Raptors.
Pacers 85, Bulls 83
INDIANAPOLIS Jermaine O'Neal and Anthony Johnson saved Reggie Miller's farewell party and made sure Indiana won't open the playoffs in Detroit.
O'Neal had 21 points and Johnson added 20, scoring the go-ahead basket and a clinching 3-pointer in the final minute to lead the Pacers past Chicago.
It was the final regular-season game for Miller, who is retiring with 25,279 points in his 18-year career, and it guaranteed the Pacers the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round series against Boston.
Had the Pacers lost, they would have opened at Detroit, the site of their infamous brawl with fans early in the season.
Miller had 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
76ers 110, Hawks 86
PHILADELPHIA Allen Iverson scored all 16 of his points in the first quarter to put the finishing touches on his fourth scoring title, and Philadelphia ended up with the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Sixers (43-39) will play Detroit in the first round.
Iverson finished with an NBA-best 30.7 scoring average, scored the second-most points in a season in Sixers history (2,302) and joined Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and George Gervin as the only players with four scoring titles.
He led the league in turnovers per game (4.6), but also was second in steals (2.4), first in minutes (42.3) and averaged a career-high 7.9 assists.
Kyle Korver added 21 points for the Sixers. Tyronn Lue had 20 points for the Hawks, who finished 13-69 for the worst record in the NBA.
Heat 98, Magic 93
ORLANDO, Fla. With Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade watching from the bench, Keyon Dooling scored 19 points to lead the Heat.
The Heat, who won their last three games to finish the season with an Eastern Conference-best 59-24 record, will open the playoffs against New Jersey this weekend.
Dwight Howard and Steve Francis led Orlando with 21 points each.
Timberwolves 95, Spurs 73
MINNEAPOLIS Minnesota's lost season finally came to an end with a victory over San Antonio, already looking ahead to a first-round playoff matchup with Denver.
Ndudi Ebi had a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds and Michael Olowokandi had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Tim Duncan played only 23 minutes for the Spurs, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the Nuggets.
Bobcats 97, Pistons 86
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Emeka Okafor had 16 points and 19 rebounds and Charlotte wrapped up its first season with a victory to snap Detroit's 11-game winning streak.
Charlotte finished 18-64 and were 2-1 against the defending NBA champion Pistons.
Tayshaun Prince scored 13 points for the Pistons, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will face Philadelphia in the first round.
Mavericks 108, Grizzlies 88
MEMPHIS, Tenn. Josh Howard scored 27 points to help Dallas beat Memphis.
The Mavericks, who will play Houston in the first round of the playoffs, closed the season by winning their last nine games and 13 of their final 14.
Memphis, the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, limped into the postseason, losing five of its final six. The Grizzlies will open against top-seeded Phoenix.
Pau Gasol led Memphis with 18 points.
Knicks 113, Wizards 105
NEW YORK Jamal Crawford made seven 3-pointers and scored 36 points, and New York came from behind to beat the playoff-bound Washington.
Stephon Marbury added 20 points and seven assists for the Knicks, who avoided a 50-loss season. Michael Sweetney had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Gilbert Arenas scored 25 points for the Wizards.
Clippers 86, Hornets 75
NEW ORLEANS Elton Brand had 18 points and 14 rebounds to help Los Angeles beat New Orleans, leaving the Hornets with the worst record in franchise history.
New Orleans (18-64) had a nine-game losing streak to end the season.
J.R. Smith led the Hornets with 15 points.
Trail Blazers 106, Lakers 103
PORTLAND, Ore. Kobe Bryant's first season as a solo superstar ended with a six-game losing streak.
Travis Outlaw's layup with 7.1 seconds left kept the Lakers at bay, and Portland beat Los Angeles in a matchup of two teams that will miss the postseason.
Bryant, who reached the NBA Finals last season before the Lakers were broken up and Shaquille O'Neal was traded to Miami, led the Lakers with 37 points.
Outlaw led the Blazers with a career-high 20 points, and rookie Sebastian Telfair had 17 points and 11 assists.
Kings 132, Suns 107
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Bobby Jackson had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in his first game since tearing ligaments in his left wrist four months ago, and Sacramento wrapped up its fifth straight 50-win season.
Darius Songaila, Cuttino Mobley and Corliss Williamson scored 19 points apiece to lead eight Kings scoring in double figures as Sacramento snapped the Suns' five-game winning streak and split the season series with the NBA's best team.
Amare Stoudemire had 30 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who already clinched the NBA's best record. Phoenix tied the 1992-93 team for the best record in franchise history at 62-20, and the Suns' 33-game improvement from last season is the third-biggest turnaround in league history.
Warriors 106, Jazz 89
OAKLAND, Calif. Baron Davis had 23 points and nine assists to help Golden State take a season series from Utah for the first time in 11 years.
Matt Harpring had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Utah.
Rockets 106, SuperSonics 78
HOUSTON With Tracy McGrady watching from the sideline, Mike James scored 24 points to help Houston close the regular season its seventh straight win.
McGrady missed the game because of back spasms, while Seattle's Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis sat out for the SuperSonics.
The Rockets will begin the playoffs Saturday against Dallas.
The Sonics, 2-8 in their last eight games, will open the playoffs Saturday at home against Sacramento.
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