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Jazz clinch playoff spot in crowded West

The Associated Press

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, left, goes up for a shot against Los Angeles Lakers forward Travis Wear during the first half of Sunday’s game in Los Angeles.

The Associated PressLOS ANGELES (AP) — Quin Snyder wasn’t too concerned about the pressure of a win-and-in situation for his Utah Jazz.

“I’d rather have that pressure than the alternative,” the coach said.

Now, he and the rest of the Jazz can rest easy.

Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points to help Utah clinch a playoff berth with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Utah is the fourth team in the crowded Western Conference to lock up a postseason spot, with five teams still in the running for the other four positions before the regular season ends Wednesday. It’s Utah’s second straight playoff appearance, even after star small forward Gordon Hayward left last offseason for a free agent deal with Boston.

“It’s a great feeling to have that,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time, we got two more games left and want to stay where we’re at.”

Mitchell also had nine rebounds and eight assists, and Joe Ingles had 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting along with 10 assists. Jae Crowder added 18 points off the bench.

Josh Hart had 25 points for Los Angeles, which has lost six of eight. Julius Randle had 17 points and seven rebounds.

A basket by Royce O’Neale put Utah up 98-76 in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter. The shot marked Utah’s largest lead of the game.

Utah held Los Angeles to only 40 percent for the game, including 5 of 25 from 3-point range.

Mitchell threw a full-court pass to a streaking Ingles for a layup and a 66-56 lead with 5:44 remaining in the third. Utah led 82-67 when O’Neale made a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to go in the quarter.

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Streaking Sixers tie record

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown acknowledged that after he told his players and the media before the season began that the goal was to make the playoffs, it “wasn’t well received” by many in the cautious front office.

Turns out, Brown had the pulse of The Process. Not only are the Sixers headed to the postseason, they’re poised to make some noise.

JJ Redick scored 18 points, and the surging 76ers matched a franchise record with their 14th consecutive victory, 109-97 over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

Ben Simmons added 16 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, and Robert Covington had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Two years after going 10-72, the Sixers (50-30) clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and secured their first 50-win season since Allen Iverson’s 2000-01 team, which lost in the Finals.

“In our profession, Brett has become a legend,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, whose team has begun its own rebuild. “He’s just been unshakable as a leader and as a guy that’s always pushed his teams to always play at their highest capacity in terms of energy and effort.

The only other time the Sixers won 14 straight in a single season, Dr. J and Moses Malone delivered Philadelphia its last NBA title in 1983.

“I wouldn’t want to play these guys in the first round with them having home-court,” Carlisle said. “Not in this place.”

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Hornets hire Kupchak as GM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets owner Michael Jordan has turned to a fellow former North Carolina Tar Heel with a strong NBA track record to help turn around his struggling franchise.

Charlotte hired Mitch Kupchak as president of basketball operations and general manager Sunday, giving him full control of day-to-day operations.

As a player and executive, Kupchak has been a part of 10 NBA championship teams. He won three as a player — one with the Washington Wizards and two with the Los Angeles Lakers — and seven as a Lakers executive.

Kupchak, 63, replaces Rich Cho, who was fired earlier this season. Speech

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