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Clippers beat Nuggets to wrap up No. 2 seed in West

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Paul George scored 27 points, Kawhi Leonard had 26 and the Los Angeles Clippers wrapped up the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 124-111 victory over the third-seeded Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

The Clippers will face seventh-seeded Dallas when the playoffs get going next week.

The Clippers took control with 13 straight points midway through the third quarter and barely let the Nuggets get back in it.

George and Leonard were big reasons why. George made two 3-pointers midway through the period, and Leonard sprinted to midcourt on a defense possession, picked off a pass at mid-court and glided in for a basket.

Los Angeles took the lead for good with 10 minutes left on Lou Williams’ jumper and steadily built the advantage to double digits on the way to its second straight win over the Northwest Division champions.

Williams was the third Clipper with 20-plus points, finishing with 23.

Jerami Grant, who missed Denver’s last game due to injury, led the Nuggets with 25 points. It was the third time in the past four games Grant, who came in averaging less than 12 points a game, went for 20 or more points.

Nikola Jokic finished with 17 points and 13 assists but sat much of the fourth quarter as coach Mike Malone chose to rest many of his top-line players down the stretch.

PACERS 108, ROCKETS 104

Myles Turner had 18 points, reserve Edmond Sumner added a season-high 17 and Indiana held off a late rally by Houston and James Harden to break a five-game losing streak to the Rockets.

It looked as if the Pacers had locked up the win when they went up 104-90 with 5:05 remaining. That’s when Harden got Houston going, cutting it to 106-104 on with a driving basket with 27 seconds to go.

Harden had 11 of Houston’s 14 points during the surge. But after Victor Oladipo missed a 3-pointer, Turner tipped out the rebound to Justin Holiday with six seconds left. Holiday hit two foul shots to finish off Indiana’s first victory over Houston since February 2017.

Harden could not get off a final 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded. The Rockets have lost two straight for the first time since the NBA restarted the season.

Harden had 45 points and tied his career-high with 17 rebounds. He came an assist shy of his fifth triple-double this season. It was Harden’s 21st game this season with 40 points or more.

Holiday also has 18 points. Turner led the Pacers with 12 rebounds. Jeff Green had 14 points for Houston. The Rockets struggled from the outside, going 16 of 57 on 3-pointers.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan rested starters T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon because of lingering injuries.

RAPTORS 125, 76ERS 121

Stanley Johnson scored the tiebreaking basket in the lane with 4.9 seconds remaining, giving Toronto a victory over Philadelphia that made a winner of Adrian Griffin.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse let his assistant coach run the team and they responded with a late run from the bottom of their bench, long after Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid had ended his night, to improve to 6-1 in the restart.

Kyle Lowry and Chris Boucher each scored 19 points for the Raptors.

Embiid played just the first half after missing a game with a left ankle injury. He also took a hit on the hand in this one and finished with five points in 14 minutes.

Tobias Harris scored 22 points and Furkan Korkmaz had 21 for the 76ers, who became locked into the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference earlier Wednesday, securing a first-round matchup against Boston. The Raptors’ first-round series against No. 7 Brooklyn had already been set.

THUNDER 115, HEAT 115

Mike Muscala made a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 22-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat 116-115 on Wednesday night.

In a game largely played by reserves in the second half, Muscala hit two 3-pointers in the final 35 seconds for his only points of the game.

Darius Bazley scored 21 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 18 for the Thunder. They outscored the Heat 34-15 in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Tyler Herro scored a season-high 30 points for Miami, and Duncan Robinson added 19 — all in the first half.