The Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, last year's Eastern Conference finalists, are at opposite ends of the playoff spectrum this season.
The Pistons did their part toward assuring a first-round meeting between the two teams when they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-102 Tuesday night, clinching the best record in the NBA, the Central Division title and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics could have sealed eighth place in the conference and the first-round meeting with Detroit next week with a victory over Washington, but they lost 121-113 to the Bullets at Boston Garden.
Washington now trails the Celtics by two games with three to play for each team, but the Bullets would get the last playoff berth if they finish in a tie because Washington beat the Celtics 4-2 in head-to-head meetings.
"There's nothing we can do about the Celtics," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "Now we have to do the same thing when we play Chicago Thursday."
"No question, our back was against the wall, and we wanted to go out fighting," said Jeff Malone, who led Washington with 24 points. "We played well. We can't worry about being eliminated, we have to take one game at a time."
Reggie Lewis had 34 points, Kevin McHale 24 and Robert Parish 23 for the Celtics, but the Bullets had 55 field goals to 41 for Boston.
Pistons 118, Cavaliers 102
Detroit raced to a 20-3 lead and then held on as Joe Dumars scored 24 of his career-high 42 points in the third quarter against Cleveland.
Lakers 142, Nuggets 118
Los Angeles pulled a full game ahead of Phoenix in the Pacific Division as Magic Johnson had 24 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists against Denver.
Sonics 122, Warriors 118
Seattle closed in on fourth place in the West, which would give the Sonics a homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel scored 35 points apiece.
Kings 120, Trail Blazers 118
Sacramento, which lost by 55 points at Phoenix on Monday, kept Portland from clinching a playoff berth as Danny Ainge scored 32 points, including a 15-foot underhand shot on the run with a second left.
76ers 124, Bucks 102
Philadelphia beat Milwaukee for the first time in four games this season and Charles Barkley scored 34 points on 15-for-16 shooting from the field.
Hawks 121, Pacers 114
Atlanta, trying to hold on to fourth place in the East, beat Indiana as Dominique Wilkins scored 15 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter.
Hornets 121, Nets 105
Dell Curry came off the bench for 31 points and Robert Reid scored his 10,000th career point as expansion Charlotte beat New Jersey for its 20th victory of the season.
Mavericks 103, Heat 99
Adrian Dantley and Derek Harper each scored 23 points as Dallas kept its slim playoff hopes alive by beating Miami.