Basketball - NBA

James leads Heat into play-offs

LeBron James delivered a season-high 41 points in the absence of injured sidekick Dwyane Wade as the Miami Heat clinched a playoff berth with their 99-93 victory over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.

 
James leads Heat  - Basketball - NBAReuters
 

With Wade sidelined due to an ailing knee, James took on the burden of leading the scoring and pulling his team to within 2 1/2 games of the East-leading Chicago Bulls.

"It's never really mattered to me about scoring," James said after making 15-of-25 shots from the field. "I'm happy to get a good team effort against a playoff team."

The 76ers' defeat dropped them 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division as they sit seventh in the overall East standings.

In the final month of a truncated regular season, shortened from 82 to 66 games due to a protracted labour dispute, the fight for playoff places continues to gather steam throughout the league.

Well behind Miami, and third in the conference, the Indiana Pacers strengthened their position with a 112-104 comeback win against the New York Knicks.

The Pacers blasted the Knicks 40-17 in the fourth quarter to complete the dramatic turnaround. Despite the loss, New York have a 1 1/2-game advantage in the battle for eighth spot.

Fifth-place Orlando are now just one game up on Atlanta following their 102-95 defeat at the hands of Detroit.

Over in the Western Conference, San Antonio crushed Cleveland 125-90 to pull within two games of top seed Oklahoma City.

The Spurs raced to their eighth straight victory to heap pressure on the Thunder.

Meanwhile, Memphis overcame Golden State 98-94 to earn their third consecutive triumph. The Grizzlies are fifth in the West and trail the Los Angeles Clippers by one and a half games.

The Los Angeles Lakers enjoyed a 91-87 victory over New Jersey that gave them a 1 1/2-game lead over the Clippers in the race for third-place in the West heading into Wednesday's showdown with their city rivals.

Reuters
     
     
     
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