By Dave McMenamin
Dirk tickles the twine and wins the game for Dallas in Tinsel Town :
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King James and the Cavs stayed hot with a road win over the Hornets.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
NBA Photo Exhibit: April 10, 2006

A. Jamison, Wizards
105-97 loss at Sixers
37 pts, 12-24 FG,
3-7 3-pt FG, 10-11 FT

Stephen Jackson, Pacers
101-82 win vs. Knicks
28 pts, 12-23 FG, 4-4 FT

Flip Murray, Cavaliers
103-101 win at Hornets
25 pts, 9-15 FG, 3-6 3-pt FG, 4-5 FT

Zach Randolph, Blazers
110-98 loss vs. Nuggets
5-15 FG, 11 pts

Desmond Mason, Hornets
103-101 loss vs. Cavaliers
2-9 FG, 2-6 FT, 6 pts

Jerry Stackhouse, Mavericks
75-73 win at Clippers
2-11 FG, 0-3 3-pt FG, 8 pts

He doesn't turn 21 years old until next December, but age doesn't matter when it comes to stat sheet stuffing if you're built like Dwight Howard. The most intimidating Orlando big man since Shaq (sorry, Rony Seikaly) had 20 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and a steal in the Magic's 105-88 rout of the Hawks. Howard is now third in the league in double-doubles with 56 in 77 games.

With the Sixers making a playoff push and Chris Webber sitting out, Steven Hunter has stepped in and plugged the hole. He posted nine points, nine boards and two blocks on Saturday before dropping 20, eight and one rejection against Washington on Monday. He could be a decent option until C-Webb gets back.

Dirk Nowitzki had missed seven of his last eight shots and was only 5-of-18 overall, but with the game tied and the clock winding down, Nowitzki shrugged off his struggles and looked like the MVP candidate he's been all year. The shaggy-haired forward hit a tough jumper from the elbow over Chris Kaman that tickled the twine with seven-tenths of a second left and gave the Mavericks a 75-73 road win over the Clippers. "Down the stretch, you don't think of what happened before," Nowitzki said. "You just concentrate on the follow-through." Nowitzki finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and Dallas extended its win streak to five games, cutting San Antonio's lead to a half-game in the Southwest Division.

The Hornets desperately needed a win to stay in the playoff chase, but LeBron James and the Cavaliers just don't know how to lose these days. James, who has been criticized for passing the ball off to teammates in crucial situations rather than taking the big shot, silenced all the naysayers as he stuck a game winner from the top of the key with five-tenths of a second to go in the Cavs' 103-101 road win over New Orleans/Oklahoma City. James' shot came after Desmond Mason hit the second of two free throw attempts to tie the game with 5.8 seconds remaining. LeBron scored 32 while Chris Paul went for 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. "LeBron James is amazing," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "We got exactly what we wanted on the last possession. Spread the floor, and let number 23 make a play. I don't care what he does with the basketball, LeBron is going to make the play to win us the ballgame. He is the MVP of the league." The Hornets now have an uphill battle for the postseason as they trail the Kings and Lakers for the final spot in the West by 3 1/2 games with five left to play. Cleveland, meanwhile, has won 11 of its last 12 and has clinched the No. 4 spot in the East.

"Those guys had their playoffs shirts made up and wanted to wear them after the game. We didn't give them a chance to do that. We had extra incentive to beat them. Now, they have to wear them somewhere else."

-- Sixers guard Allen Iverson commenting on the Wizards, whose chance of clinching a playoff spot was temporarily thwarted thanks to 26 points and 15 assists from A.I. in a 105-97 home win.

1. Ya-Ouch
Tracy McGrady was the first Rockets superstar to go out with a season-ending injury back in March, and it appears he'll have some company on the bench. Yao Ming left Monday's game against the Jazz with 3:51 left in the first quarter after he was kicked on the side of his left foot by Mehmet Okur, breaking the bone near the small toe. With only four games remaining for the Rockets this year, Yao may have to park it in the garage rather than try to play on a bum wheel. The injury puts a run to a remarkable stretch by Yao; since the All-Star break, he had been averaging 26.6 points and 12 rebounds. Despite Yao's exit, Juwan Howard (25 points) and Houston had a chance to tie the game on the last possession, but Howard's last-second swish was released after the buzzer sounded and Utah won 85-83. The win puts the Jazz 2 1/2 games behind the Kings and the Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West.

2. Just Another Magic Monday
The Magic's chances of making the playoffs this season are slim, but thats not stopping them from finishing the year off with gusto. Jameer Nelson had 17 points and six assists to lead Orlando to a 105-88 home win over the Hawks. The victory was the fifth straight for the Magic and their ninth in the last 10 games. While the Orlando turnaround has been spearheaded by young players like Nelson and Dwight Howard, a 15-year veteran made a splash on Monday. Stacey Augmon played six minutes and scored four points, but the spot appearance signified a whole lot more for "The Plastic Man" as he played in the 1,000th game of his NBA career.

3. Rocky Mountain High
Carmelo Anthony led the Denver Nuggets back to a place they haven't been since the 1987-'88 season when Alex English was the leading scorer and the team wore rainbow colored jerseys -- division title land. Anthony had 28 points and six assists on Monday in the Nuggets' 110-98 win in Portland as Denver clinched the Northwest Division and locked in to the No. 3 spot for the playoffs. Marcus Camby scored 21 and grabbed 13 rebounds and Ruben Patterson had 21 points and three steals. "I told coach Karl that you got to let me loose tonight and if I start acting up you can put me back in my cage," said Patterson, who made a special appearance in the starting lineup against his former team. "I was kinda ready for this game and got a lot of sleep last night. If we would have lost against them I would have been devastated. The good thing is we didn't and we clinched our division, so I'm happy right now."

The saying goes that by the end of a season a rookie isn't really a rookie anymore. Houston's Chuck Hayes looked like a somewhat seasoned veteran for most of the game against the Jazz as he scored nine points on 4-for-4 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and grabbed a season-high three steals. But his first-year jitters showed late in the game as he missed two free throws with 5.9 seconds left and his team down by one. The forward out of Kentucky couldn't put the Rockets ahead and Utah won, 85-83.

The Pacers came into Monday having lost seven of eight and facing a Knicks team riding a three-game winning streak. Indiana needed a lift and who would have thought that Austin Croshere would be the man to bring it? Croshere, who had fallen out of the Pacers' rotation of late due to injuries, scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Indiana's 101-82 home win over New York. "It's kind of late (in the season) but we need to make a stand," Croshere said. "I think everybody is really upset with the way we've been playing. When you've lost eight out of (ten), culminating with the blow-out (Sunday), the best thing to do is get back to basics." The Pacers are tied with the Bucks for the sixth playoff spot in the East.