NEW ORLEANS Chris Paul took control down the stretch and took the New Orleans Hornets into the playoffs.
Paul had 33 points and 15 assists, and the Hornets became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth, beating the New York Knicks 118-110 on Friday night.
New Orleans (53-22), which never has been better than a No. 4 seed in the playoffs, increased its lead atop the Western Conference to 1 1/2 games over the San Antonio Spurs, who lost to Utah.
"It's a great feeling," Paul said. "It's my third year in the league and I've never been to the playoffs, but we finally did it. Now the hard work begins."
Paul asserted himself the most when the Hornets fell behind, scoring 13 points in the last 5:15 of the first half and making several key plays when they fell behind by four in the fourth quarter.
"He turned it around for us," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "He got more aggressive and his will to win the game and take it upon himself to ensure the victory is probably the biggest thing that happened tonight."
Jamal Crawford had 29 points and nine assists for the Knicks, who have lost 17 of 19 but stayed competitive through three quarters. The Hornets trailed 95-91 with 10:20 left before putting away the game with a 26-9 run, getting 12 points from Peja Stojakovic during that spurt.
Stojakovic finished with 22 points and David West added 17 for the Hornets, who won their 10th in a row at home. They were coming off a season-high, six-game road trip in which they went 5-1.
New York (20-56) finished an 0-5 road trip. The Knicks played well for 3 1/2 quarters but could not sustain that effort down the stretch as embattled coach Isiah Thomas missed an opportunity to impress new president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh.
Reserve Nate Robinson scored 23 points and Zach Randolph added 22 points, 11 in the first quarter. The Knicks lost shooting 55 percent from the field.
"We fought the whole game and guys played good," Randolph said. "Just towards the end, Chris took over, hit big shots and we couldn't bounce back."
WIZARDS 109, HEAT 95: At Washington, Caron Butler scored 29 points and Washington beat Miami to clinch a playoff spot for the fourth straight season.
The woeful Heat set a franchise record with 19 3-pointers and still couldn't beat the Wizards, who were without Antawn Jamison for the first time this season. Jamison, who averages 21.5 points and a team-leading 10.2 rebounds, was sidelined with a sprained right shoulder.
Ricky Davis had a season-high 33 points and Chris Quinn finished with 24 for the Heat, who must win two of their final six games to avoid tying the worst record in their 20-year history. Miami, an NBA-worst 13-63, went 15-67 in 1988-89, its first season.
76ERS 109, HAWKS 104: At Atlanta, Andre Iguodala scored 30 points and Andre Miller had 23 to help Philadelphia wrap up its first playoff spot in three years.
Philadelphia stopped the Hawks' five-game winning streak and has won two straight and 21 of 28.
Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 32 points. The teams will play again Saturday in Philadelphia, where the Sixers are 13-2 in the second game of back-to-backs.
WARRIORS 117, GRIZZLIES 86: At Memphis, Tenn. Andris Biedrins had 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Golden State climbed within a half-game of eighth-place Denver in the Western Conference.
Golden State, which snapped a two-game losing streak, had six players in double figures. Biedrins shot 8-of-11 from the field and grabbed five offensive rebounds.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 23 points, while Hakim Warrick finished with 13 and Kyle Lowry had 12.
PISTONS 106, NETS 87: At Auburn Hills, Mich., Antonio McDyess scored 19 points, Rasheed Wallace added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Detroit beat New Jersey for their fourth straight victory.
The victory moved Detroit to the verge of clinching the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons will lock up the No. 2 spot with one win or an Orlando loss.
New Jersey trails Atlanta by four games with six games left in the race for the East's last playoff spot.
BOBCATS 105, RAPTORS 100: At Toronto, Jason Richardson scored 27 points and Earl Boykins converted a three-point play after stealing the ball from T.J. Ford in the final minute.
Chris Bosh had 23 points for the Raptors, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory. Toronto still sealed a spot with New Jersey's loss and Washington's victory.
PACERS 105, BUCKS 101: At Milwaukee, Mike Dunleavy scored 27 points and the Pacers kept their faint playoff hopes alive, as Indiana pulled within three games of Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
SUNS 117, TIMBERWOLVES 88: At Phoenix, Steve Nash had 14 points and 11 assists, then sat out the final quarter of Phoenix's rout of Minnesota.
ROCKETS 79, SUPERSONICS 66: At Seattle, Tracy McGrady scored 18 of his 25 points in the third quarter as Houston kept pace in the wild Western Conference playoff race.
LAKERS 112, MAVERICKS 108: At Los Angeles, Lamar Odom scored a season-high 31 points and Kobe Bryant added 25 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers clinched a playoff berth.
The Lakers have qualified for the playoffs in 55 of their 60 seasons as a franchise, winning 14 NBA championships and 27 division titles hoping for a 28th with a magic number of five.