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Pacers pull away late to clinch playoff spot

Darren Collison of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the Miami Heat on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. AFP
Darren Collison of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the Miami Heat on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. AFP

Pacers pull away late to clinch playoff spot

Darren Collison nailed a couple of clutch late 3-pointers as the Indiana Pacers clinched a postseason spot on Sunday with a 113-107 overtime win over the Miami Heat.

Victor Oladipo tallied 23 points and five assists for the Pacers who earned their seventh playoff appearance in the last eight seasons.

Collison sank the go ahead 3-pointer with 2:49 left in overtime to give Indiana a 101-100 lead. Collison finished with 12 points as the Pacers scored 11 unanswered points to seal the victory.

Thaddeus Young had 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points and eight rebounds in the win.

“Our [job] is still not done,” Young said. “We want to get as high of a seed as possible and we’re just going to continue to play and try to win as many games as possible.

“But the monkey is off our back now that we’re actually in.”

Tyler Johnson finished with 19 points, James Johnson had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Bam Adebayo added 14 points for the Heat, who won two of the four-game season series.

The Heat were missing coach Erik Spoelstra who was back in Florida for the birth of his son. Spoelstra, who was replaced by assistant coach Dan Craig, is expected to return for Miami’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

In losing for the 11th time in their last 12 road games, the Heat fell to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers win and the Heat loss had a domino effect on the postseason race as the Philadelphia 76ers clinched even though they didn’t play on Sunday.

The Sixers last made the playoffs in the 2011-12 season, which was shortened to 66 games by a lockout.

Elsewhere, LeBron James scored 37 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and passed out a game-high eight assists to lead the Cavaliers over the host Brooklyn Nets 121-114.

The Nets cut a 10-point Cavs lead in half only to have James sink a stepback 30-foot 3-pointer – his only 3-point hoop of the game – with 39 seconds remaining to put a dagger in Brooklyn’s upset bid.

James credited aggressive defensive work by the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter, when they held the Nets to 25 points.

“You’ve got to have your mind ready defensively and have our stance ready when they get the ball,” James said.

Kevin Love added 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Jordan Clarkson added 18 points for Cleveland, while George Hill had 17 and Rodney Hood netted 16 off the bench for Cleveland.

Playoff boost

Also, the Milwaukee Bucks gave their NBA playoff push another boost, fighting off a furious fourth-quarter San Antonio Spurs’ rally to hold on for a 106-103 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from missing one game to score 25 points for the Bucks, who almost blew a 15-point lead with eight minutes to go.

The Spurs stormed back to get within three points, with less than a minute left on the clock, but couldn’t get any closer in front of a crowd of 18,700 in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are in seventh spot in the East with nine games remaining in the regular season.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 34 points for the Spurs, who had their six-game winning streak halted.

Greece’s Antetokounmpo looked impressive in his return from a sprained right ankle as he added 10 rebounds to pick up his 37th double-double of the season.

James Harden had a triple-double with 18 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in three quarters and the Houston Rockets rolled to their 60th victory, beating the Atlanta Hawks 118-99.

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