With a chance to end a seven-year playoff drought, Reggie Jackson put the Detroit Pistons on his back and carried them into the NBA’s second season.
Jackson fired in 14 of his 39 points in the final quarter to go along with nine assists, and the Pistons (43-37) clinched their first post-season berth since 2009, with a 112-99 victory over the visiting Washington Wizards on Friday.
“I just wanted to be myself and be aggressive,” said Jackson, who fell one point shy of his career-best.
“This is very meaningful; this was our goal since last summer. We’re happy to clinch the playoffs against a team that beat us all three times this season.”
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was all smiles after the clinching victory vaulted them into the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“This is huge for us, I hope it’s the start of bigger things to come,” he said. “It wasn’t easy and virtually everybody contributed. Obviously, Reggie was fabulous. He made plays down the stretch and our defence stiffened up.”
Tobias Harris netted 17 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 14 for the Pistons (43-37), who outscored their guests 26-15 in the final quarter.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Harris, who came over in a mid-season trade from Orlando. “The day I got traded I knew it was to help this team make the playoffs. That was main focus.”
The Pistons blew a 19-point second-quarter cushion before regrouping. They led by 16 but were torched by Markieff Morris’ 24-point barrage as the margin was cut to 86-84.
Jackson, however, took charge in final frame, as the Palace crowd chanting “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!”
Clinging to 100-96 advantage with 2:45 left, Jackson scored eight points to spark a 12-3 closing run, and the drought was history
“Reggie came up big in the fourth quarter,” Caldwell-Pope said. “He carried us over the hump.”
Morris had 29 points while Bradley Beal added 25 for the Wizards (38-41), who without All-Star guard John Wall because of sore knee, were eliminated from the post-season.
Denver Nuggets 102, San Antonio Spurs 98: Jusuf Nurkic scored a career-high 21 points, Emmanuel Mudiay added 20 and the host Nuggets (33-47) snapped a 10-game slide to the diluted Spurs, who rested four starters. Tim Duncan had a season-best 21 points to pace the Spurs (65-15), who lost two in a row for the first time this season following Thursday’s defeat to Golden State.
Dallas Mavericks 103, Memphis Grizzlies 93: Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and the Mavs moved a step closer to clinching a playoff berth after beating the Grizzlies for a sixth straight win, despite the first-half loss of JJ Barea to a right groin strain. Dallas (41-38) holds down the seventh spot in the West, two games ahead of Utah, with three remaining. Tony Allen scored 25 points to pace injury-riddled Grizzlies (42-37), who lost for the seventh time in eight games but clinched a playoff spot when Houston lost to Phoenix on Thursday.
LA Clippers 102, Utah Jazz 99 (OT): Jamal Crawford scored 30 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with two tenths of a second left in overtime, and the visiting Clippers (51-28) edged the Jazz despite resting four starters. Gordon Hayward had 24 points with 13 rebounds for Utah (39-40), which leads Houston (38-41) by a game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Toronto Raptors 111, Indiana Pacers 98: Rookies Norman Powell dropped in a career-high 27 points, Delon Wright added 19, and the Raptors (53-26) kept the visiting Pacers from clinching a playoff spot despite giving three front-liners the night off. The Pacers (42-37) are currently the eighth playoff seed in the East, but need one more victory or a Chicago loss to qualify for the postseason.
Boston Celtics 124, Milwaukee Bucks 109: Tyler Zeller matched a career-high with 26 points, and the Celtics (47-32) moved into tie with Atlanta for the third playoff spot in the East, after beating the visiting Bucks, who received a game-high 27 from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Orlando Magic 112, Miami Heat 109: Nikola Vucevic scored 29 points, including a dunk with 20 seconds left, and the host Magic (34-45) dropped the Heat (46-33) a game behind Boston for the fourth playoff seed in the East.
Charlotte Hornets 113, Brooklyn Nets 99: Kemba Walker scored 22 points and the Hornets (46-33) stung the visiting Nets (21-58) to pull into a fifth-place tie with Miami in the East playoff scramble.
New Orleans Pelicans 110, LA Lakers 92: Alexis Ajinca had career-highs of 28 points with 15 rebounds, and the Pelicans (30-49) crushed the visiting Lakers in Kobe Bryant’s final game in New Orleans. Bryant, who will retire this week following 20 seasons with the Lakers (16-63), finished with 14 points and cheers from the crowd.
New York Knicks 109, Philadelphia 76ers 102: Robin Lopez had 24 points with 15 rebounds and the visiting Knicks (32-48) knocked off the league-worst Sixers (10-69), despite Robert Covington’s career-high 30-point effort.
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