NEW YORK — The San Antonio Spurs moved to within one victory of securing the Western Conference top seed for the playoffs Sunday as the NBA’s leading contenders continued to jostle for position in the final week of the regular season.
The Spurs easily defeated Cleveland 114-98, after Oklahoma City suffered a heartbreaking double overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, handing San Antonio a one-and-a-half game advantage over the Thunder in the conference.
San Antonio, which would finish ahead of Oklahoma City by virtue of the tie-breaker between the teams should it finish level, can clinch the top seed with a victory over Portland Monday.
Oklahoma City sustained a blow in its 114-106 loss to the Lakers in a physical battle that saw Los Angeles forward Metta World Peace ejected after striking James Harden with an elbow to the head in the second quarter.
World Peace was celebrating a dunk when he flung an elbow at Harden, knocking his opponent out of the game with a concussion and earning himself an early shower.
“It was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow,” World Peace told reporters, following the action that will likely see him face a suspension. “I hope he is OK. I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden.”
The incident overshadowed a thrilling showdown that featured clutch shooting from Kobe Bryant, who had 26 points, and a game-high 35 points from Kevin Durant.
The Lakers remained third in the West and stayed half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, who beat New Orleans 107-98 in the day’s final game.
Meanwhile, Denver edged in front of Dallas for sixth in the same conference following their 101-74 blowout of Orlando.
In the Eastern Conference, Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points to help the New York Knicks edge Atlanta 113-112 and move half a game ahead of Philadelphia for seventh in the East.
A shorthanded Miami Heat beat Houston 97-88 behind 32 points from LeBron James. The Heat trail East-leading Chicago by two games with as many contests remaining.
The Heat were without stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Wade sidelined by a dislocated left index finger suffered on Saturday in a loss to lowly Washington.
Bosh rested his weary legs and Mario Chalmers missed the game with flu-like symptoms.
Elsewhere Charles Jenkins had 24 points and nine assists, helping the Warriors rally from a 21-point deficit and beat the host Timberwolves 93-88.
Minnesota announced before the game that All-Star forward Kevin Love would not play the final two games of the season because of a concussion.
DeMarcus Cousins, meanwhile, had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and the Kings handed the host Bobcats their 20th straight loss 114-88.
Reserve Ben Gordon scored 19 points, including the go-ahead basket, to help Detroit beat Toronto 76-73.
Gordon’s three-pointer with less than three minutes to play broke a 68-all tie, and he added four subsequent free throws to keep Detroit ahead. Rookie Brandon Knight also had 19 points to help the Pistons end a two-game losing streak. — Agencies