Basketball / NBA / Suns Pull Away From Rockets as Playoff Push Continues; Lakers Beat Denver

Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 15 rebounds, Steve Nash added all 18 of his points in the second half along with 10 assists, and the visiting Suns kept their playoff hopes alive.

LOS ANGELES - Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry lit into his team at halftime and the Suns finally got fired up, sparking to a 112-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 15 rebounds, Steve Nash added all 18 of his points in the second half along with 10 assists, and the visiting Suns kept their playoff hopes alive.

"I don't want to really say what was said in the locker room but it was really bad, especially for me," Gortat said. "We came out stronger, we came out more focused and we had more energy. Jared Dudley had 19 points for the Suns (31-28 ), who moved one game behind the Rockets and Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race, with seven games left in the regular season.

"Winning here tonight doesn't guarantee us a playoff spot," Gentry explained. "We still have a lot of games to play. All this did was give us an opportunity to come a little closer to what we want to accomplish."

Goran Dragic topped the Rockets (32-27 ) with 22 points, Argentine Luis Scola added 21 while Marcus Camby finished with 14 and 18 rebounds.

After trailing by four at halftime, the Suns responded to Gentry's tongue-lashing and turned the game around.

With Nash netting 10 third-quarter points, Phoenix outscored its guests 30-14 in the pivotal period and carried a 79-69 advantage into the final frame.

"We were disappointed with our first-half effort," Nash said. "So we made up for it in the second-half."

The gap grew to 97-81 after Gortat's layup with six minutes left to play. The Rockets refused to go quietly, storming to within five as Scola scored inside with one minute 52 seconds left.

With a shot to draw closer, Courtney Lee missed a three-pointer with 50 ticks remaining. At the other end, Dudley dropped in a game-sealing triple that made it 108-100 with 36 seconds left, and Nash sank four free throws to wrap up the win.

Elsewhere - Dallas Mavericks 97, Portland Trail Blazers 94: Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points, Delonte West added 21, and the visiting Mavericks moved one game back of idle Memphis for the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase after holding off the Trail Blazers.

New Orleans Hornets 96, Utah Jazz 85: Eric Gordon scored 25 points, Chris Kaman added 19, and the Hornets dimmed the playoff hopes of the visiting Jazz, which, despite 27 points by Paul Millsap, dropped to 10th spot in the West.

Oklahoma City Thunder 115, Sacramento Kings 89: Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Russell Westbrook added 22 and the Western Conference-leading Thunder sent the visiting Kings to their season-high seventh straight setback.

LA Lakers 103, Denver Nuggets 97: Andrew Bynum scored 30 points, Matt Barnes added a season-high 24 points with 10 rebounds, and the Lakers - minus Kobe Bryant for the fourth consecutive game (sore left shin ) - clinched a Western Conference berth after holding off the Nuggets.

Miami Heat 105, Charlotte Bobcats 82: LeBron James had 19 points with nine rebounds, Chris Bosh scored 18, and the Heat improved to 11-1 without superstar Dwyane Wade (ankle injury ), after dealing the league-worst Bobcats (7-51 ) their 15th consecutive loss.

Indiana Pacers 102, Cleveland Cavaliers 83: Danny Granger scored 18 points, Tyler Hansbrough added 16, and the host Pacers clinched a playoff berth in the East, with their seventh win in eight games.

Toronto Raptors 84, Boston Celtics 79: DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points, including four big free throws in the final 26 seconds, and the Raptors - minus injured starters Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon - stopped a four-game slide while snapping the visiting Celtics' winning streak at four.

Atlanta Hawks 109, Orlando Magic 81: Jannero Pargo nailed five triples en route to 17 points to pace six teammates in double figures, and the visiting Hawks routed the Magic, which fell to 1-4 without superstar center Dwight Howard, out indefinitely with a herniated disk in his lower back.

New York Knicks 103, Washington Wizards 65: J.R. Smith scored 23 points, Baron Davis, Steve Novak and Carmelo Anthony added 18 apiece, and the Knicks moved into a tie with Philadelphia for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race after spanking the visiting Wizards.

New Jersey Nets 95, Philadelphia 76ers 89: Gerald Green scored 23 points, Kris Humphries added 18 with 13 rebounds, and the visiting Nets surprised the Sixers.

Milwaukee Bucks 113, Detroit Pistons 97: Drew Gooden scored 26 points, Brandon Jennings had 20 with 10 assists, and the visiting Bucks remained two games behind New York and Philadelphia for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot after pounding the Pistons.