SALT LAKE CITY – After four months of patching together a lineup, the Utah Jazz finally have some depth, just in time for the playoff stretch.
Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, right, and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, left, of China, battle for a loose ball as the Rockets' Carl Landry, foreground, looks on during the fourth period of am NBA basketball game in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, March 4, 2009.
(AP Photo/Colin Braley)
The Jazz increased their winning streak to nine with a 101-94 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, continuing to slowly work their way up the Western Conference standings.
Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 17 rebounds, looking once again like the player that led the Jazz in scoring and rebounding before he was injured in November and missed three months, and Deron Williams had 26 points and 14 assists as Utah's trademark pick-and-roll was rolling again.
"I'm getting more comfortable out there. I'm back with my teammates and we're working hard every day," said Boozer, a two-time All-Star. "Every day is an improvement. I'm trying to stay encouraged about it. I still can't jump high, but that's OK."
The Jazz outrebounded the Rockets 45-31 and went 17-for-17 from the foul line in their 10th straight win at home.
Mehmet Okur had 16 points and eight rebounds and Ronnie Brewer scored 19 for Utah.
"All of these games coming up are important with how tight the West is and we just have to keep it rolling," said Williams.
Ron Artest scored 25 points to lead Houston and Yao Ming had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists before fouling out with 1:23 left. Yao also had five blocks despite playing with foul trouble most of the night.
The Jazz improved to 2-1 against Houston and also moved within a half-game of the Rockets in the congested conference standings.
Utah and Houston have met in the first round of the playoffs the last two years and the Jazz won both. The final meeting of the regular season is March 24 in Utah, where the Jazz have won 10 straight.
"We really needed this game because they're right there ahead of us," Williams said.
Cavaliers 91, Bucks 73
At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 23 points, Delonte West had 13 and a career-high eight steals and the Cavaliers became the first team to clinch a spot in the NBA playoffs.
The Cavs (48-12) wrapped up their fourth straight postseason berth and improved their league-best record at home to 27-1.
Richard Jefferson scored 29 for the Bucks.
Mavericks 107, Spurs 102
At Dallas, Josh Howard scored 29 points and Jason Kidd hit a clutch 3-pointer with 31 seconds left for the Mavericks.
The Mavs were thumped Monday night in Oklahoma City and owner Mark Cuban on Tuesday questioned his team's commitment, threatening to get rid of anyone he didn't think was trying.
Erick Dampier had nine points and four blocks, pestering Tim Duncan into a 7-for-21 night.
Trail Blazers 107, Pacers 105
At Portland, Ore., Brandon Roy scored 28 points, including a pair of game-clinching free throws with 1.7 seconds left, and Portland won its 10th straight at home.
The victory also snapped Portland's nine-game losing streak against Indiana, which had won four straight at the Rose Garden.
Marquis Daniels had 28 points for the Pacers and Troy Murphy had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Knicks 109, Hawks 105
At New York, Larry Hughes scored 23 points the Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak.
Al Harrington had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and rookie Danilo Gallinari scored a career-high 17 points for New York.
Al Horford had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawks.
Heat 135, Suns 129
At Miami, Dwyane Wade scored 35 points and tied his career high with 16 assists, reserves Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook combined to score 55 points, and the Heat spoiled Shaquille O'Neal's return to Miami.
Beasley had 28 points — the most by a Heat player besides Wade this season._ and Cook added 27 as Miami had the second-highest point total in franchise history.
O'Neal finished with 22 points and eight rebounds for the Suns.
Celtics 115, Nets 111
At East Rutherford, N.J., Paul Pierce scored 31 points and hit a game-winning 17-footer with 20.9 seconds to play to lead Boston. Ray Allen, who tied the game at 111 with a clutch 3-pointer with 1:05 to play, iced the contest with two free throws with 7.5 seconds to play.
Seconds earlier, Vince Carter had a potential game-tying drive bounce off the rim.
Carter had 34 points for New Jersey and Devin Harris added 25 points and 11 assists.
Thunder 88, Wizards 83
At Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha made big baskets in the final 2 minutes, helping host Oklahoma City to its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Sefolosha made a reverse layup with 1:47 to play, pushing Oklahoma City's lead to 84-81. A jumper by Westbrook with 33.3 seconds remaining stretched the lead to five and Nenad Krstic added two free throws with 9.5 seconds left.
Antawn Jamison had 29 points and 10 rebounds for Washington.
Bulls 110, Warriors 88
At Chicago, John Salmons had 23 points and Joakim Noah added 14 points and 17 rebounds as the Bulls pulled into a tie with Milwaukee for eighth place in the East.
Stephen Jackson scored 19 points for the Warriors.
Grizzlies 118, Clippers 95
At Los Angeles, Rudy Gay scored 20 of his season-high 35 points in the third quarter and Memphis snapped an eight-game losing streak. Rookie center Marc Gasol had 20 points, along with eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists.
Al Thornton scored 25 points for the Clippers.