James Harden returns from hamstring injury, Nets beat Spurs

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NEW YORK (AP) — James Harden had 18 points and 11 assists in his return from an 18-game absence to help the Brooklyn Nets beat the San Antonio Spurs 128-116 on Wednesday night.

Coming off the bench in an NBA game for the first time since he won the league’s Sixth Man award for Oklahoma City in 2011-12, Harden also had seven rebounds after the longest layoff of his career, missing more than a month because of a strained right hamstring.

Landry Shamet scored 21 points and Nicolas Claxton had a career-high 18 for the Nets. They won their third straight and pulled within 1 1/2 games of Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead.

Kevin Durant had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Nets played without Kyrie Irving after he left their victory in Chicago on Tuesday with a facial contusion. They still have had their three superstars play together just seven times.

But they put eight players in double figures and shot 60.8% to wrap up a league-best 22-8 record against Western Conference teams.

DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points for the Spurs. They missed a chance to secure a spot in the play-in tournament.

HAWKS 120, WIZARDS 116

ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young scored 33 points and John Collins hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds remaining and Atlanta beat Washington to clinch its first playoff berth since 2017.

Under interim coach Nate McMillan, who should receive strong consideration in the coach of the year balloting, the Hawks have posted a 25-11 mark to stamp themselves as a dangerous opponent heading into the postseason.

Russell Westbrook had 34 points and 15 assists for Washington. Two nights after breaking Oscar Roberson’s record with his 182nd career triple-double, Westbrook came up a bit short of No. 183. He was held to five rebounds.

CAVALIERS 102, CELTICS 94

CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Love scored a season-high 30 points, Collin Sexton added 28 and Cleveland beat Boston to end an 11-game losing streak, locking the Celtics into a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.

Love made six 3-pointers, including two in an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter, and had 14 rebounds as Cleveland closed out a miserable season at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with its first win since April 21.

Jayson Tatum scored 29 points for Boston. The Celtics have lost eight of 11.

The Associated Press

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