Nets top Eastern Conference for first time in 18 years after fightback against Rockets

Brooklyn turn 18-point deficit into 120-108 victory

Brooklyn Nets' James Harden drives past Houston Rockets' D.J. Augustin during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Brooklyn Nets topped the Eastern Conference for the first time since April 2003 after fighting their way back to defeat the Houston Rockets 120-108.

Second-year centre Nic Claxton scored 12 points and had eight rebounds to help the Nets turn an 18-point deficit into a 15-point lead in the second half.

Brooklyn will be concerned after James Harden left the court after 27 minutes with a tight right hamstring, but Kyrie Irving filled the void for the former Rocket by netting 31 points and collecting 12 assists to move half a game clear of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers 112-97 in the second encounter between the two sides this season.

Andre Drummond's debut for Los Angeles lasted only 14 minutes and 20 seconds following a toe injury as Jrue Holiday poured in 28 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 with 10 rebounds.

The Bucks will next meet the Portland Trail Blazers, who recorded their fourth straight win after easily accounting for the Detroit Pistons 124-101 in Michigan.

Anthony Edwards scored 12 of his 24 points in the final eight minutes to help his Minnesota Timberwolves squeak past the New York Knicks 102-101, while the Miami Heat rallied back from a 14-point first-half deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 92-87.

The Dallas Mavericks claimed back-to-victories with a 113-108 effort against the Boston Celtics, the Memphis Grizzlies gave the West-leading Utah Jazz a scare before falling to a 111-107 loss and Devin Booker had a season-high 45 points as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Chicago Bulls 121-116.

The Sacramento Kings' five-game winning streak came to a halt after they lost 120-106 to the San Antonio Spurs, while the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped their three-game run of losses with a 113-103 victory against the Toronto Raptors.

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