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NBA: Heat rout Pacers to keep top seeding in sight

The NBA champion Miami Heat routed the Indiana Pacers 98-86 on Friday to position themselves to nab the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. LeBron James scored a game-high 36 points, and while the Heat haven't locked up the top seed, they control their own fate with three games remaining in the regular season against the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. "I would love to see us play with this identity, to our identity, (Saturday) night," was Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's only comment on the seedings race.

Hawks 93, Nets 88

Hawks 93, Nets 88: Paul Millsap collected 27 points and 10 rebounds and Jeff Teague poured in 22 points as visiting Atlanta held on to snap Brooklyn's 15-game home winning streak. DeMarre Carroll tallied 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks, who reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to one. Atlanta survived a 1-for-19 performance from 3-point range to maintain its two-game lead over New York for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Celtics 106, Bobcats 103

Celtics 106, Bobcats 103: Avery Bradley scored 22 points and Jared Sullinger added 20 as Boston snapped a nine-game slide by holding off visiting Charlotte. Brandon Bass recorded 18 points and nine rebounds and Jeff Green scored 18 for the Celtics, who were without guard Rajon Rondo. Rookie Phil Pressey started in Rondo’s place and recorded 10 points and a season-high 13 assists for Boston.

Preview: Pacers at Heat

The two best teams in the Eastern Conference are struggling down the stretch, but one of them moves closer to claiming the top seed in the East when the Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat on Friday. Indiana holds a half-game edge over Miami entering the clash and a victory would reduce its magic number to one for clinching the No. 1 spot. The Pacers are just 8-12 over their past 20 games while the Heat is in the midst of a 10-11 stretch.

Preview: Knicks at Raptors

The Toronto Raptors look to clinch the Atlantic Division for the second time in franchise history when they host a desperate New York Knicks team Friday night. Toronto has won four straight and seven of eight to get within a victory - or a Brooklyn Nets loss - of locking down the division for the first time since 2006-07. A win Friday would also match the club record for victories in a season, also accomplished in 2006-07 and in 2000-01.

Preview: Bobcats at Celtics

The Charlotte Bobcats are winners of five straight and are making a run at the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics, who host the Bobcats on Friday, are losers of nine in a row and are making a run at the third-worst record in the league. Charlotte is tied with the Washington Wizards for the No. 6 spot and the right to avoid the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Nuggets 100, Warriors 99

Nuggets 100, Warriors 99: Kenneth Faried hit a go-ahead turnaround in the lane with 0.5 seconds left and Timofey Mozgov recorded a career and NBA season-high 29 rebounds to go along a career high-tying 23 points as Denver stunned host Golden State. Faried finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds as the Nuggets dominated the glass 63-38, including 25-6 on the offensive boards. Randy Foye added 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Denver.

Preview: Nuggets at Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are taking advantage of a soft portion of the schedule as they attempt to lock up a playoff spot. The Warriors will go for their third straight win against a sub-.500 opponent when they wrap up a three-game homestand against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Off the court turmoil surrounding another assistant coach being let go and the continuing injury struggles of David Lee didn’t stop Golden State from a pair of easy wins last weekend.

Preview: Thunder at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers are trying to catch Oklahoma City for the second spot in the Western Conference playoff race and need a home win over the Thunder on Wednesday to have any chance of accomplishing that. Oklahoma City possesses a 1 1/2-game lead over the Clippers with Los Angeles having just four games remaining, so a Thunder victory will all but assure the pecking order. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant had his string of consecutive 25-point outings end at 41 on Tuesday against Sacramento.

Preview: Celtics at Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks failed to create some breathing room against one light opponent and will attempt to keep from suffering consecutive bad losses when they host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Atlanta struggled in a 102-95 home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday to see its lead trimmed to 1 1/2 games over the New York Knicks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are just 9-22 since being four games over .500 on Feb. 1.
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