Cavs & thunder seal play-off spots early

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) fouls Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10).
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) fouls Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10).PHOTO: REUTERS

They join Warriors and Spurs as Oladipo's 45pts not enough to get past Irving and James

LOS ANGELES • The Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder clinched National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off berths on Friday night.

In Orlando, Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and added five assists to lead the Cavaliers to a 109-103 victory over the Magic.

Irving, who had 33 points on Wednesday in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks, scored 10 points in the decisive fourth quarter as the Cavs overcame a big night from Magic guard Victor Oladipo.

Oladipo, who had a career-high 45 points, hit a three-pointer to bring his team within four points with 1min 2sec remaining.

But LeBron James, who returned to the Cavs line-up on Friday after resting on Wednesday, was fouled on the next possession and calmly stepped to the foul line and knocked in both free throws to seal the victory.

IT'S JUST ROUTINE

We thought we were going to make the play-offs, so it wasn't really a big deal to clinch it. We have bigger things ahead of us.

TYRONN LUE, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, on his team clinching an NBA play-off berth.

James had 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, as the Cavs improved their East-leading record to 49-19.

They made their play-off spot official, but coach Tyronn Lue said there was no time to celebrate.

"We thought we were going to make the play-offs, so it wasn't really a big deal to clinch it," he said. "We have bigger things ahead of us."

Cleveland (49-19) swept the season series 4-0 and have won 14 straight games against the Magic (29-39) - their longest current streak over an opponent.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant again led the way for the Thunder as the Northwest Division side clinched a play-off berth with a 111-97 victory over the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia.

Westbrook delivered his league-leading 13th triple-double of the season with 20 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

In the process, Westbrook tied Grant Hill (1996-97) and Jason Kidd (2007-08) for 13 triple-doubles in a season dating back at least 25 years.

"I come out and compete every night at a high level and try to keep my energy up for my team-mates," he said.

"I think it's fun to see where we're playing the right way. It's fun for our guys to see everybody happy playing the right way."

Durant added 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, scoring at least 20 points for the 54th straight game.

"There's a competitive anger you see in their faces, a determination and will more than you can put any stat on," 76ers coach Brett Brown said of Westbrook and Durant.

"We shake their hands. They are one of the elite teams in the NBA and they are the head of the snake."

Enes Kanter scored 16 points and Steven Adams had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who improved to 47-22. They are third in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs - who have already clinched play-off berths.

Jerami Grant scored 15 points, Nerlens Noel added 12 and Isaiah Canaan had 10 for Philadelphia, which dropped their fourth consecutive game and fell to 9-60.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'CAVS & THUNDER SEAL PLAY-OFF SPOTS EARLY'. Print Edition | Subscribe