In brief: Hawks pound Lakers, move past Celtics
NBA: Joe Johnson scored 25 points, Jamal Crawford led a dominating performance by the Atlanta bench and the Hawks handed Los Angeles its second straight loss, breezing past the Lakers 109-92 Wednesday night in Atlanta.
Kobe Bryant scored 28 points but only eight in the second half as Los Angeles lost back-to-back games for just the fourth time this season.
The Hawks moved a game ahead of Boston for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
•Blazers clinch spot in playoffs: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points and the Portland Trail Blazers clinched a playoff spot with a 118-90 victory over the visiting New York Knicks.
Portland is in seventh place – one-half game behind Oklahoma City and one-half game ahead of San Antonio.
•Mavericks notch win No. 50: Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points and led a late Dallas rally as the Mavericks got their 50th win of the season with a 106-102 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Memphis, Tenn.
The Mavs pulled within four games of the Lakers for the top record in the Western Conference with seven left to play.
•Cavaliers edge Bucks: Mo Williams made four free throws in the final 12.8 seconds and finished with 21 points and LeBron James scored 23 as the Cleveland Cavaliers held on for a 101-98 win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cavs have won 10 of their past 11 games and lead the Lakers by five games with seven to play for the league’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
In other news, James said that he’s “probably not playing” for Team USA this summer in the world championships in Turkey.
•Durant sparks Thunder: Kevin Durant scored 37 points, Jeff Green hit two 3-pointers in the last 2 minutes and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Boston Celtics 109-104 in Boston.
The victory was the Thunder’s 46th of the season, doubling their total for all last season as they remained in sixth place in the Western Conference.
•Raptors cling to playoff spot: Chris Bosh had 34 points and 11 rebounds, Andrea Bargnani had 21 points and eight rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the visiting Los Angeles Clippers 114-92.
Toronto is two games in front of Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
•Bobcats inch closer: Gerald Wallace had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Tyson Chandler added a season-high 15 points, and the Charlotte Bobcats moved a step closer to their first playoff berth with a 103-84 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Charlotte, N.C.
Charlotte, the No. 7 seed, leads ninth-place Chicago by four games with eight to play.
•Fans can help select MVP: The NBA announced that fans can make their pick for the league’s Most Valuable Player, with the combined fans’ choice counting for one vote on the official ballot.
Starting Thursday through April 15, fans can go to www.NBA.com/ KiaMVPFanVote and rank their top five choices. The other 124 votes will come from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters.
VCU wins CBI tournament title
Basketball: Brandon Rozzell scored a career-high 27 points and Jamie Skeen hit a pair of crucial baskets in the final 2 minutes, helping Virginia Commonwealth (27-9) beat Saint Louis (23-13) for the second time in three nights, wrapping up the best-of-3 CBI championship with a 71-65 victory in St. Louis.
•West boys victorious: Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 3 seconds left gave the West a 107-104 victory over the East in the McDonald’s boys All-American game at Ohio State’s Value City Arena in Columbus. Knight, from Coral Gables, Fla., has not yet picked a college.
•West girls win: Tennessee signee Meighan Simmons scored 21 points in 14 minutes and Texas A&M-bound Karla Gilbert added 15 points to lead the West past the East 84-75 in the McDonald’s All-American game at Ohio State’s Value City Arena in Columbus.
Stamkos closes in on scoring leader Crosby
NHL: Steven Stamkos scored his 46th goal to edge within one of leader Sidney Crosby and the Tampa Bay Lightning prevented Pittsburgh from gaining ground in the Eastern Conference race, beating the Penguins 2-0 in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh missed a chance to take a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division over idle New Jersey.
•Flames gain ground: Miikka Kiprusoff made 29 saves and the Calgary Flames beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in Calgary, Alberta, to move within two points of Colorado for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
•Sabres near division title: Jason Pominville scored his team-leading 24th goal and the Buffalo Sabres inched closer to clinching the Northeast Division title with a 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in Buffalo, N.Y.
•Blackhawks end skid: Antti Niemi made 21 saves for his seventh shutout of the season and third in seven games and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 in St. Paul, Minn., to snap a three-game losing streak.
Chicago pulled to within three points of Western Conference-leading San Jose.
•Ott’s hat trick beats Sharks: Steve Ott had three goals for his first career hat trick, scoring short-handed in the opening minutes and adding even-strength and power-play goals in the Dallas Stars’ 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Dallas.
•Ducks keep hopes alive: Jason Blake had a goal and four assists, Saku Koivu added a goal and three assists and the Anaheim Ducks kept their slim playoff hopes alive while dealing a setback to Colorado’s with a 5-2 victory over the Avalanche in Denver.
With six games left, the Ducks moved within seven points of the Avalanche, who hold the final playoff berth.
Seahawks face Titans in preseason opener
Miscellany: The Seattle Seahawks will host the Tennessee Titans in the first week of NFL exhibition games, which will be played Aug. 12-16. The Seahawks will host Green Bay in the second game, which will take place Aug. 19-23.
Seattle plays at Minnesota in its third exhibition game, Aug. 26-29, and ends the exhibition slate at Oakland, Sept. 2 or 3.
•Wambach delivers for U.S. women: Abby Wambach scored her 105th international goal to help the U.S. beat Mexico 1-0 in a women’s soccer exhibition match in Sandy, Utah.
•Lidge has cortisone shot: Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge received a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired right elbow and likely won’t be ready to pitch until mid-April.
•Couples, Norman captains again: Fred Couples (USA) and Greg Norman (Europe) are returning as captains for the 2011 Presidents Cup in Australia, the only place where the International golf team has won.
•Clijsters, Henin will square off: Belgian Kim Clijsters and compatriot Justine Henin will meet tonight in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Henin beat No. 2-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday. Clijsters topped No. 9 seed Samantha Stosur 6-3, 7-5.