Wizards shine; Clippers, Raptors clinch playoff spots

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LeBron James (No. 23) of the Cleveland Cavaliers spins away from John Wall (No. 2) of the Washington Wizards during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
AFP PHOTO

LOS ANGELES: John Wall tallied 37 points as the Washington Wizards defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115, tightening the race atop the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday (Sunday in Manila)

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The Wizards now trail the Boston Celtics by two games and the defending NBA champion Cavaliers by 2 1/2 for first place. Also, Cleveland’s lead over Boston is now just a half-game.

Wall delivered 18 of his 37 points in the first quarter shooting eight-of-eight from the field.

“You don’t want to go into the playoffs knowing you have to face those guys and you never won against them in the regular season,” Wall said. “To come here and win in a tough place, it’s definitely a boost.”

Bradley Beal added 27 points for the Wizards, who are now 19-7 when all five starters score in double figures.

Superstar James shook off the eye injury suffered Friday night to score 24 points, grab 11 rebounds, and hand out eight assists.

“I haven’t been in too much light the last 24 hours, I mean all day since I got home last night and today I stayed away from it because it was bothering me a little bit too much,” said James, who suffered a corneal abrasion to his right eye.

“But I kind of warmed up to it, so that’s a good sign.”

James started Saturday’s contest wearing plastic goggles but took them off with about three minutes left in the first quarter.

James needed seven assists to pass Maurice Cheeks (7,392) for 12th place in NBA history, which he reached with his first assist in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score a game-high 28 points and power the Los Angeles Clippers over Utah 108-95.

The Clippers improved to 44-30, moving within one-half game of the Jazz (44-29) for fourth place in the Western Conference and clinching a playoff berth for the sixth season in a row.

The teams would be first-round playoff foes if they keep their spots with the superior record conveying a home-court edge in the series.

French centre Rudy Gobert scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost to the Clippers for the third time in four meetings so far this season and the 18th time in the team’s past 20 meetings.

Gobert also stretched his streak of games with at least one blocked shot to 41.

Blake Griffin had 15 points, Chris Paul added 14 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15 rebounds for the Clippers. Joe Johnson came off the bench to score 17 for the Jazz.

Selfish players hurt Jazz
After the game Gobert blasted some of his teammates for putting more importance on padding their scoring stats than trying to win games. He did not mention any names.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring,” Gobert said of Utah’s fourth loss in its past five games. “That’s what it is.

“I think everybody needs to think about making plays for the team, making winning plays, before thinking about how many points we’re going to score and stuff like that.”

“There’s going to be some games where you don’t score. But are you going to take a charge for a teammate?”

In Dallas, the visiting Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff spot with a 94-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center arena.

Toronto won their 44th game of the season and their fifth in a row as they head home to begin an important string of four games at Air Canada Centre.

DeMar DeRozan, coming off consecutive 40-point games, and forward Serge Ibaka each scored 18 points to lead the Raptors. DeRozan was eight of 17 from the floor with six assists.

AFP

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