HOUSTON (AP) – Houston beat Dallas 99-94 on Wednesday to inflict a fourth-straight defeat on the Mavericks and widen the gap between the Rockets and their Texan rivals in the NBA Southwest Division.
The Rockets closed within 1-1/2 games of Southwest leader Memphis, and also moved 2-1/2 clear of Dallas and another state rival in San Antonio.
Elsewhere, Cleveland extended its winning streak to eight even in the absence of LeBron James as they beat Portland, Phoenix held on to beat Washington and Atlanta pushed its winning run out to 17 games by defeating Brooklyn.
Houston had a balanced scoring effort led by 18 points from Josh Smith and 17 from James Harden, compensating for the absence of the injured Dwight Howard.
The game remained up for grabs into the closing seconds. Houston’s Terrence Jones blocked a shot by Monta Ellis but knocked it out of bounds in the closing moments, giving Dallas a final chance. The inbounds pass by Chandler Parsons sailed out of bounds to give Houston the ball. Harden made two free throws after that to secure the win.
Ellis led the Mavericks with 33 points.
Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 55 points, breaking the arena record, to lead the Cavaliers to a 99-94 win against Portand.
Irving took over with James sidelined with a sprained right wrist. He buried a 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left to break a 94-94 tie, and then sank two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Irving broke the previous scoring record at Quicken Loans Arena held by Allen Iverson. His point total was also the highest in the league this season, bettering the 52 scored by Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Mo Williams. Irving made a team-record 11 3-pointers and finished 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.
LaMarcus Aldridge, playing his second game since deciding to delay thumb surgery until after the season, scored 38 to lead the Trail Blazers, who have dropped six of seven.
Phoenix had five players in double figures to beat Washington 106-98.
Goran Dragic scored 20 points to lead the Suns, who improved to 5-2 with one game remaining in an unprecedented run of eight-straight home games.
The Wizards, playing their fourth game in five nights, trailed by 22 in the first half and 18 early in the fourth quarter before twice cutting it to four.
Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat scored 14 each for Washington. Atlanta’s Paul Millsap had 28 points and 15 rebounds and five other Atlanta players scored in double figures as the Hawks stretched their franchise-record winning streak with a 113-102 victory over Brooklyn.
Atlanta has won 31 of 33 and leads the Eastern Conference by a commanding seven games.
The Hawks pulled away in the final quarter, leading by as many as 15.
Joe Johnson led the Nets with 26 points. It wasn’t enough to prevent Brooklyn’s 11th loss in 13 games, a slide that has knocked the team out of the top eight in the East.
San Antonio shook off a lethargic third quarter to beat Charlotte 95-86.
Tony Parker scored 17 points and Danny Green had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won six consecutive home games.
Gerald Henderson scored 18 points for the Hornets, who were without star guard Kemba Walker, who will be out at least six weeks following knee surgery.