Spurs join Thunder in playoffs

The Oklahoma City Thunder overcame an 18-point deficit to clinch a playoff berth with a 115-93 victory at the Miami Heat on Monday.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook goes to the basket against the Miami Heat during the second half of their NBA match at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, on Monday. The Thunder won 115-93 to seal a playoff spot. 

PAUL George scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook bagged a triple-double as the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame an 18-point deficit to clinch a playoff berth with a 115-93 victory at the Miami Heat on Monday.

Westbrook finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a dynamic performance which assured the Thunder of a postseason berth and kept them in the hunt for home-court advantage in the first round.

The Thunder improved to 47-34, leaving them level on wins in the Western Conference standings with the 4th-placed Utah, which has played a game fewer.

George and Westbrook were backed by Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 11 points, while Jerami Grant contributed 17 off the bench as the Thunder overcame a determined Miami side.

Josh Richardson led the scoring for the Heat with 18 points while Hassan Whiteside had 16. The loss saw Miami slide back to 7th place in the NBA Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Washington.

George said the Thunder would now aim to finish with a win in front of their home fans tomorrow, when they host the Memphis Grizzlies. “It feels great. We’ve got one more to go, we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.

The Thunder were joined in the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs, who sealed their 21st consecutive appearance in the postseason with a 98-85 win over the Sacramento Kings.

The Spurs advanced after strong performances off the bench, with Manu Ginobili chipping in with 17 points and Rudy Gay 18 points.

It remains to be seen where San Antonio will start in the playoffs however, with the Spurs one of four teams locked on 47 wins heading into the final rounds of the regular season.

New Orleans was the other team to clinch on Monday, with the Pelicans trouncing the Los Angeles Clippers 113-100 at the Staples Center on the back of a 28-point display from Anthony Davis.

Also, Nikola Jokic had his second triple-double in as many games, and Denver beat visiting Portland 88-82 to keep the Nuggets’ playoff hopes alive.

Denver, which won its sixth straight game, and Minnesota are both 46-35 and tied for 8th place in the Western Conference standings. The winner of the Nuggets’ regular-season finale in Minneapolis will go to the playoffs.

Jokic recorded 15 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists for the Nuggets.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 18 rebounds as Minnesota defeated Memphis 113-94 in Minneapolis.

In other NBA games, it was: Cavaliers 123, Knicks 109; Raptors 108, Pistons 98; and Nets 114, Bulls 105.

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