Phoenix continue unlikely strong start to season

Last updated 21:00 31/12/2013

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Phoenix closed within half a game of the Los Angeles Clippers for the NBA Pacific Division lead with an impressive 107-88 road win today, with Goran Dragic having 26 points and eight assists before sitting out the fourth quarter.

Among the day's other games, LeBron James celebrated his birthday by returning to Miami's lineup in a narrow win over slumping Denver, New Orleans edged Portland thanks to Tyreke Evans last-gasp jump-shot, and Dallas also prevailed in a tight contest to beat Minnesota.

Phoenix's Gerald Green added 21 points off the bench for the Suns, who have won 10 of their past 12 under first-year coach Jeff Hornacek.

Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford each scored 15 points for Los Angeles, which had won by an average of 20 points in its previous three home games against Phoenix, but suffered its heaviest loss of the season this time.

Miami's James scored 26 points on his return from a groin injury to help steer an injury-stricken Heat lineup to a 97-94 win over Denver.

James, who turned 29, played a key role for the Heat who had to do without Dwyane Wade, who sat out the second half due to back spasms, and his replacement Norris Cole, who had a heavy fall midway through the third quarter.

Chris Bosh had 17 points for Miami while Ty Lawson had 26 points to lead the Nuggets, who have lost seven straight.

New Orleans' Tyreke Evans hit a pull-up jumper from 17 feet with 1.2 seconds left to give the Pelicans a 110-108 win over Portland.

Evans' big basket came right after Portland's Damian Lillard, who has hit several game-winners this season, made a contested 3-pointer to tie the score at 108.

Anthony Davis forced LaMarcus Aldridge into a tough shot from the baseline that bounced off the top of the backboard as time ran out, allowing the Pelicans to hang on for their fourth-successive home win.

Lillard scored 29 points for the Trail Blazers.

Dallas' Shawn Marion scored 32 points and hit two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Dallas withstand a furious second-half charge from Minnesota and win 100-98.

Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points for the Mavericks, who led by 19 late in the first half before the Wolves came back.

Kevin Love had 36 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, and his 3-pointer 90 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Wolves an 86-85 lead. They led 90-87 midway through the period, but Marion hit two 3-pointers during a 10-0 run to put the Mavericks back in front.

Love had a shot to win it on the last possession, but Marion knocked his shot out of bounds. Love thought he was fouled, and replays appeared to support him but no whistle was blown.

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Washington's John Wall scored 29 points as the Wizards became the latest team to rally past Detroit in the fourth quarter, beating the Pistons 106-99.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his 26 points in the third quarter to power the Bulls to a 95-91 win over Memphis.

Utah's Trey Burke beat the shot clock on a driving layup with 19 seconds left and scored 21 points to lead the Jazz past Charlotte 83-80.

- AP

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