The Oklahoma City Thunder's up-and-down season is coming to an end, and they are hoping to finish it on a high note, with options still open for their playoff positioning. They helped that cause by taking care of the NBA's best team, the Houston Rockets, with a 108-102 victory on Saturday night. Russell Westbrook and Paul George had 24 points apiece for OKC, who snapped the Rockets' 20-game home winning streak. The win helped them keep pace with the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers respectively on Saturday. The three teams are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference, just a half game behind the Utah Jazz. Carmelo Anthony also chipped in with 22 points, as the Thunder moved one win away from clinching a playoff spot. The Rockets trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but kept things close heading in to the final 12 minutes. Although, they would go on a four-minute scoreless drought, which included three turnovers, and helped fuel the Thunder's 11-o run to extend their lead. James Harden had 26 points for Houston, which got 17 from Chris Paul, who was matched up with Westbrook the entire night. That even had him getting in to some trouble with a technical foul after getting called for an offensive foul. Houston has already clinched the top spot in the West with three more games left in the regular season. That includes visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. The Thunder can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Miami Heat on Monday night.
Flyers, Avalanche Clinch Final Playoff Spots
One playoff spot remained in the Eastern and Western Conferences heading in to the final full regular season day of the NHL season. Both spots were filled, beginning in the East, where the Philadelphia Flyers shut out the New York Rangers, 5-0, to clinch a playoff spot. The win eliminated the Florida Panthers from contention, as the Flyers were led by Claude Giroux's first-career hat trick. The big day for Giroux helped end his season with career highs of 34 goals and 102 points, becoming the sixth player in franchise history to reach 100 points in a season. Michael Raffl and Ivan Provorov also scored for Philadelphia, who needed just one point to clinch a return to the postseason for the first time since 2016. They also finalized the decision for the Rangers to part ways with head coach Alain Vigneault, which they did after the game. Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues went head to head for the final Western Conference playoff spot, with the Avalanche coming out on top, 5-2, at home. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves while getting supported by Nathan MacKinnon's first goal in 10 games. Samuel Girard and Tyson Barrie both scored, as did Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Nieto on empty netters late. The Avalanche will enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a Wild Card team, moving on to the postseason for the first time since the 2013-2014 campaign. This comes just one season after ending with a league-low 48 points. They are the first team to record a 40-point gain from one season to another since the Pittsburgh Penguins went from 58 points in the 2005-2006 season to 105 points in the 2006-2007 season. The Avalanche will be matched up with division rivals and the top seeded Nashville Predators in the first round.
McCutchen, Giants Walk-Off Against Dodgers in 14 Innings
The Los Angeles Dodgers were expected to come out of the gates on fire after last season's World Series appearance, while the San Francisco Giants were thought to slowly move up after multiple roster moves this off-season. So far, that is not the case, and was not the case on Saturday night, with one of the Giants' off-season acquisitions coming up big in the clutch. Andrew McCutchen ended his first-career six-hit game by hitting the walk-off three-run home run in the 14th inning for a 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder ended a 12-pitch at-bat with the game-winner, sending the Dodgers to a tough 2-6 start to their season. The long ball scored Joe Panik and Kelby Tomlinson and came off of reliever Wilmer Font, who fell to 0-2 on the year. McCutchen drove in four on the day, while Buster Posey also went deep for the Giants, who blew three separate leads before extra innings. Roberto Gomez got the win despite allowing Logan Forsythe's go-ahead RBI single in the top half of the 14th. It was a long day overall for the two clubs, as the game started two hours later than scheduled due to heavy rains, just one day after the sixth postponement in AT&T Park history, and first since 2006. The game itself lasted five hours and 16 minutes. The Dodgers are now off to their worst start to a season since 1976, including dropping two of three overall to begin the year against the Giants. Chase Utley went deep, while Corey Seager reached base five times in a losing effort. They will hope to avoid a short two-game sweep in the series finale on Sunday.