LOS ANGELES – The Cleveland Cavaliers surged from 11 points behind to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 125-120 and become the first team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference to assure themselves of a berth in the playoffs.
Kyrie Irving scored 46 points and LeBron James chipped-in with 34 as the defending champions improved their record to 46-23 in an unexpectedly tough battle against the worst team in the Western Conference.
Kevin Love continued his return to top form after losing a month to injury, contributing 21 points and 15 rebounds for the visiting Cavs in the game at the Staples Center.
In San Antonio, Pau Gasol scored 22 points as the Spurs posted a 118-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
The Spurs ended a two-game losing streak and climbed to 53-16, just two games back from Western Conference leaders Golden State.
Boston (44-26) missed a chance to gain ground on the Cavaliers, losing 105-99 to the Philadelphia 76s, who sit second from the bottom in the Eastern Conference.
Rookie-of-the-year hopeful Dario Saric scored 23 points for the hosts, while Al Horford was the Celtics’ top scorer, with 27 points.
The Raptors were 116-91 winners over Indiana in the first meeting between the two teams since Toronto prevailed over the Pacers last season in the first round of the playoffs.
DeMar DeRozan put in 22 points to help lift the Raptors to 41-29, while a fifth loss in 10 games left Indiana at 35-34.
The Portland Trail Blazers topped the Heat 115-104 in Miami on a 49-point performance by Damian Lillard, including nine three-pointers.
A third straight win brought the Trail Blazers to 32-37. Miami fell to 34-36. Portland and the Heat are each fighting for the eighth and final playoff berth in their respective conferences.
Detroit dominated Phoenix 112-95 to leapfrog Miami into seventh place in the East; the Dallas Mavericks (30-39) beat the last-place Nets in Brooklyn 111-104; and the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Minnesota Timberwolves 123-109 in a contest between two teams with slim hopes of qualifying for the post-season.