Basketball / NBA

Pistons clinch final playoff spot in East

AP, Staff Report

The Detroit Pistons knew a victory Wednesday night would guarantee them a playoff spot. And, from the opening tip, they left no doubt that was going to happen.

Luke Kennard scored 27 points, Reggie Jackson had 21 and Andre Drummond added 20 points and 18 rebounds as the Pistons locked up the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with a 115-89 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

Detroit will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round.

Jackson scored 14 points and Drummond had 10 points and seven rebounds as the Pistons never trailed and led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter. Neither player was needed in the fourth quarter.

“We knew what was at stake,” Drummond said. “We knew they were coming in to try and ruin our season that we worked so hard for. Just tried to stick it to them early and get them out of the game.”

Detroit extended its lead to 27 points twice in the second quarter and led 65-41 at halftime.

The Pistons went up by as many as 36 points and led 92-59 after the third quarter.

Detroit took a game-high 40-point lead, 109-69, on Zaza Pachulia’s lay-in with 4:31 left in the game.

“We’re building something special, and this is the first step to get into the playoffs,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “Our fans are used to great basketball. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re not where we were.”

Wayne Ellington added 12 points for Detroit, which hadn’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season, the last time they finished over .500 (44-38). Before that, the Pistons hadn’t made the postseason since 2008-09.

John Jenkins led the Knicks with 16 points, Kadeem Allen scored 13, Henry Ellenson added 12, and Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hicks each had 11.

The Pistons outrebounded the Knicks 56-33.

“They really got after us,” New York coach David Fizdale said. “They didn’t take it light because they were playing the youngest and last-place team in the league. They came here and gave it to us.”

The Knicks, who were looking to tie a season-high three-game winning streak, instead ended with a 17-65 final-season record, tied with their 2014-15 team for the worst in franchise history.

Grizzlies 132, Warriors 117

In Memphis, Jevon Carter scored a career-high 32 points, Justin Holiday added 22 and the hosts pounded Golden State in the teams’ regular-season finale.

Memphis rookie Yuta Watanabe, who spent most of the season with the NBA G League’s Memphis Hustle, appeared in his 15th game and saw 19:10 of court time. He scored four points on 2-for-8 shooting and pulled down four rebounds (two offensive). The former George Washington University player averaged 2.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.5 assists for the Grizzlies.

Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 21 points, while Klay Thompson finished with 19. Durant and Thompson, who sat out Tuesday’s win at New Orleans, were the only Golden State starters to play. Both saw action only in the first half.

Nuggets 99, Timberwolves 95

In Denver, Nikola Jokic had 29 points, 14 rebounds and had a key strip in the closing seconds as the Nuggets scored the game’s final 15 points and secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

James Murray added 17 for Denver, which is in the postseason for the first time in six years and will face seventh-seeded San Antonio.

Gorgui Dieng had 18 points for the Timberwolves and rookie Cameron Reynolds scored a career-best 17 points.

Trail Blazers 136, Kings 131

In Portland, rookie Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 37 points in his first start of the season and the hosts secured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference using just six players in a win over Sacramento.

The Blazers have won 14 of 17 games en route to their sixth straight trip to the playoffs. Portland will open the postseason against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who finished as the sixth seed.

Marvin Bagley III had 20 points to lead the Kings.

Clippers 143, Jazz 137 (OT)

In Los Angeles, Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points to lead seven players in double figures and the Clippers beat Utah in overtime, snapping a three-game skid to close the regular season.

Ivica Zubac added 22 points and 11 rebounds and Patrick Beverley had 14 points in his return from injury.

Grayson Allen led the Jazz with a career-high 40 points. The rookie made 13 of 14 free throws and five 3-pointers, but was limited to four points in overtime.

The Jazz earned the fifth seed and they’ll play No. 4 Houston in the first round.

Thunder 127, Bucks 116

In Milwaukee, Russell Westbrook got his 34th triple-double of the season and Oklahoma City topped the hosts.

The Thunder played without injured Paul George, but Westbrook, Jerami Grant and Dennis Schroder led a hot-shooting effort from 3-point range. Westbrook had 15 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds. He moved into a tie with Magic Johnson for second place on the career triple-double list with 138. Schroder had 32 points, and Grant added a career-best 28.

The Bucks rested star Giannis Antetokounmpo and some other key players.

Magic 122, Hornets 114

In Charlotte, Kemba Walker scored 43 points in what may be his final game with the Hornets, a loss to Orlando that eliminated the hosts from playoff contention.

Terrence Ross had a season-high 35 points, Aaron Gordon added 27 and the Magic clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face the Toronto Raptors in the first round.

Nets 113, Heat 94

In New York, Dwyane Wade recorded one last triple-double before heading off to retirement, and Brooklyn headed to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after securing the win and the No. 6 seed.

Wade had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his final NBA game with close friends LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony leading the cheers from their courtside seats.

D’Angelo Russell had 21 points on seven 3-pointers for the Nets, who will face the third-seeded 76ers beginning this weekend in their first postseason appearance since 2015.

Spurs 105, Mavericks 94

In San Antonio, LaMarcus Aldridge had 34 points and 16 rebounds and the Spurs beat Dallas in Dirk Nowitzki’s final game.

Nowitzki finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the finale of his storied 21-season career — all with the Mavericks.

The Spurs head into the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 7 seed.

76ers 125, Bulls 109

In Philadelphia, Jonathon Simmons had 20 points to lead the 76ers over Chicago in the regular-season finale for both teams.

In preparation for the playoffs, the 76ers rested all five starters, and star center Joel Embiid’s status for the opener is in question.

Walt Lemon Jr. scored 20 points to lead the Bulls.

Pacers 135, Hawks 134

In Atlanta, Edmond Sumner sank three free throws with three-tenths of a second remaining, lifting playoff-bound Indiana past the Hawks.

Taurean Prince’s 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining gave Atlanta the lead, but DeAndre Bembry’s foul on Sumner’s last-second 3-point attempt changed the game.

TJ Leaf set career highs with 28 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana.

Prince and Trae Young each scored 23 points for Atlanta. John Collins scored 20 points and set a career high with 25 rebounds.