The Houston Rockets extended their lead over the Golden State Warriors in the close race for the top spot in the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers dropped to the fourth spot after absorbing another loss on Sunday night.
The Rockets remained in control in the Western Conference playoff race after scoring a convincing 105-82 win over the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The lowly Mavericks managed to keep it close in the opening half, but the Rockets were simply too much for them.
Chris Paul finished with a double-double, 24 points, and 12 assists, to go along with five rebounds. Eric Gordon had 26 points, while Gerald Green and Joe Johnson added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Houston played without James Harden, who is nursing a left knee injury. The leading NBA Most Valuable Player candidate is expected to return to action on Monday against the San Antonio Spurs.
With the win, the Rockets improved to 52-14 to stay on top of the Western Conference standings. They are now 1.5 games ahead of the Warriors, who dropped to 51-16 after absorbing their second consecutive loss.
Playing without starting point guard Steph Curry, the Warriors leaned on Kevin Durant, who finished with a 39 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. However, it was not enough as the Minnesota Timberwolves escaped with a 109-103 victory at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Karl-Anthony Towns had a solid night, finishing with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Taj Gibson added 11 points and 13 boards, while Jeff Teague also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists for the Timberwolves. Minnesota improved to 39-29, and are in fifth place in the West behind the Rockets, Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers (40-26), and New Orleans Pelicans (38-28).
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers dropped to the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Cleveland took a surprising 127-113 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. It was their first game against each other since striking a blockbuster deal before the trade deadline in February.
Julius Randle led the Lakers with 36 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Brook Lopez had 22 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 20 points, while Isaiah Thomas posted 20 points and nine assists in his first game against his former team.
The Cavaliers are now half-game behind the third-running Indiana Pacers (39-28). The Toronto Raptors (49-17) are still on top of the East and are 3.5 games clear of the second-running Boston Celtics (46-21). The updated NBA standings are available on the league’s official website.