The Oklahoma City Thunder tightened their grip on the NBA’s final Western Conference play-in berth with a 114-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday, edging a half-game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 points to lead seven Oklahoma City players in double figures as the Thunder snapped a three-game losing streak.
Josh Giddey added 17 points, eight assists and eight rebounds and Aaron Wiggins scored 15 off the bench as Oklahoma City’s reserves delivered 50 points.
Now, even if the Mavs win their last two games, the Thunder can clinch 10th place — and the final spot for the play-in tournament for the seventh- through 10th-placed teams — if they beat Memphis on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro scored 24 points apiece to lead Miami to a 129-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that kept alive the Heat’s hopes of avoiding the play-in altogether.
With two games left, the Heat still have a chance to grab sixth place in the Eastern Conference from the Brooklyn Nets, although the Nets can lock up the spot with a win in either of their last two games.
Butler scored 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter and also handed out six assists before taking a seat in the fourth period.
Herro, who had five of the Heat’s 18 three-pointers, said the Heat were more focused on finding consistency than avoiding the play-in.
“It’s just being consistent for us,” he said. “No matter what, coming in with the same energy wherever we are.
“Wherever we end up in the seedings, we’ll be all right,” he added. “We like our chances.”
The 76ers, already locked into the third seed in the East behind Milwaukee and Boston, coughed up 17 turnovers, falling into a 25-point hole in the first half.
The Heat led by as many as 33 and Sixers coach Doc Rivers sat his starters in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, coming off a 52-point performance in a hard-fought victory over the Celtics on Tuesday, scored 21 points and James Harden added 14.
“We just didn’t come to play tonight,” Rivers acknowledged. “We didn’t have great energy. Very difficult game to have energy, honestly. It was an exercise tonight.”
In Orlando, Danny Green scored 21 points and Cedi Osman added 19 for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 118-94 victory over the Magic.
Both the playoff-bound Cavs and the out-of-contention Magic rested key players, two days after the Cavs’ 117-113 victory over Orlando secured the fourth seed in the East and home-court advantage in the first round.
Donovan Mitchell, whose 43 points for Cleveland on Tuesday was his fourth straight 40-point game, sat out along with Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro.
In Phoenix, the Suns had all they could handle from a Denver lineup made up of reserves, pulling away late for a 119-115 victory — their seventh in a row.
The top-seeded Nuggets rested starters Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Suns, meanwhile, had 29 points from trade deadline acquisition Kevin Durant, who logged more than 40 minutes as he continues to build chemistry with new teammates Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
Paul made a career-high seven three-pointers on the way to 25 points. Deandre Ayton added 16 and Booker chipped in 15 for the Suns, who took the lead for good on Durant’s three-pointer with 4:10 to play.
In all, there were 23 lead changes, including six in the fourth quarter.
Bruce Brown led the Nuggets with 31 points and Reggie Jackson added 20.
“It was good to get some late-game minutes and figure out what we wanted to do on both sides of the ball,” said Durant, whose on-court time with his new teammates has been limited by injuries.
“I feel like it was mission accomplished tonight.”
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