The Houston Rockets are still perfect in March. The Phoenix Suns are only superb.
The Rockets made it 13 wins in 13 games this month as Vernon Maxwell hit a 22-footer with eight seconds left for a 112-111 victory at Atlanta Thursday night. Maxwell missed 10 of his first 15 shots, but made up for it by hitting the game-winner."I didn't shoot it that well tonight, but I did hit a couple of big baskets down the stretch," Maxwell said. "Somebody's been doing it every night for us. Tonight it was just me."
Maxwell said he told Kenny Smith during a timeout that he was going to hit the winning basket, "and luckily I just went out there and hit it."
"If this team is in the game in the fourth quarter, we win it," Rockets coach Don Chaney said. "They absolutely refuse to lose."
The Suns haven't been perfect this month, but a 13-3 record isn't too shabby. Phoenix set a team record for wins in March by blasting the visiting Milwaukee Bucks 102-88 as Dan Majerle had seven of his 18 points in a 23-6 third-quarter burst that blew the game open.
Atlanta overcame a 10-point deficit with eight minutes to play and took a 96-95 lead when Dominique Wilkins converted a pair of free throws following technical fouls. There six more ties before Glenn Rivers hit one of two free throws with 22 seconds remaining to put Atlanta ahead 111-110.
Enter Maxwell, who atoned for his shooting problems with a jumper from the top of the key, just inside the 3-point line.
All that stands between the Rockets and a perfect March are games this weekend at Orlando and Miami.
"Now what we have to do is keep our poise and not let down against Orlando and Miami," Chaney said.
He also said the Rockets have gotten used to the run of victories.
"They think winning. They don't think losing," he said. "Doesn't matter what the odds, they do not think losing. And that's great. They don't care what the score is. They know they're going to win and they don't care how the game is called, what the situation is. They are going to win the game."
Suns 102, Bucks 88
Phoenix led just 47-46 at halftime before Milwaukee went cold in the third quarter, hitting just 3 of 22 shots from the field, including 16 straight misses.
After Jay Humphries' jumper gave Milwaukee a 50-50 tie with 9:45 left in the third period, Xavier McDaniel's baseline jumper started the Suns' game-breaking run. Majerle had a 3-pointer and four free throws in the spurt.
"In the second half, we really stopped them on defense and didn't let them get many good shots off," said Majerle, who had two of Phoenix's six steals as the Suns forced 20 turnovers. "I know my offense sparks the team, but I really like to make my presence felt on defense. That seems to get everything else going."
Heat 90, Celtics 88
Miami ended its second lifetime 0-fer in as many games by rallying from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the visiting Celtics for the first time in 11 tries.
The Heat, which beat Cleveland for the first time ever on Tuesday, fell apart during a 19-4 run by Boston that put the Celtics ahead 81-64 with 7:30 left. But Miami got back in the game with a 13-0 run, pulled even at 86-86 on Glen Rice's 22-footer with 1:05 left and got the victory when Rice snapped an 88-all tie by hitting two free throws with 1.9 seconds to play.
"Our guys did a great job," Miami coach Ron Rothstein said. "Hopefully, this will be a tremendous confidence-builder."
Hornets 94, 76ers 90
Like the Heat, the Hornets also won at the line as Rex Chapman hit six of his team's eight straight free throws in the final 1:20 to give Charlotte a franchise-record 21st victory.
Charlotte won 20 games in its first season and 19 in its second. The Hornets also set a team mark with their 14th home win.
Chapman broke an 88-88 tie by hitting two free throws with 36.7 seconds to go. Johnny Newman hit two more free throws with 16.6 seconds left to make it 92-88 and Chapman added two more with 4.7 seconds remaining.
The 76ers played without All-Star Charles Barkley, who was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game by the league for spitting into the stands during a game Tuesday at New Jersey.
Bulls 128, Nets 94
The 20,049 fans at the Meadowlands didn't get to see Michael Jordan for long. Jordan needed only 30 minutes to match his season-high with 42 points, including 21 in the second quarter as Chicago routed the Nets.
Jordan, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, had 12 straight Chicago points during a 15-4 second-quarter run that put the Bulls ahead 56-44, then had seven in a 14-3 third-quarter burst that put the game away.
Chicago outrebounded New Jersey 69-49, including 29-17 on the offensive glass, to win for the 10th time in 12 games.
Warriors 106, Knicks 104
Mitch Richmond drove the lane for a layup with 3.4 seconds remaining to give Golden State the victory after the visiting Warriors blew an 11-point lead in the final eight minutes.
Kiki Vandeweghe's basket with 11 seconds left capped the Knicks' comeback and tied the game 104-104. But Richmond drove the length of the floor for the game-winner and Paul Mokeski sealed the win by stripping Patrick Ewing of the ball as time expired.
Chris Mullin had 26 points and a season-high 12 rebounds and Sarunas Marciulionis matched his season-high with 23 points for the Warriors, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Ewing had 33 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks.
Spurs 119, Magic 95
Terry Cummings and Sean Elliott each scored 21 points and David Robinson added 20 as San Antonio routed Orlando for its ninth consecutive victory at home and moved back into first place in the Midwest Division, a half-game ahead of Utah.
Orlando, which had its four-game winning streak snapped, got 21 points from Scott Skiles and 15 each from Nick Anderson and Jerry Reynolds.
The Spurs hit a team-record 11 of 11 free throws in the first half, led by 14 at halftime and by at least 11 throughout the second half.
Cavaliers 102, Bullets 95
Brad Daugherty scored all of his 16 points in the second half to lead Cleveland over Washington, which lost for the 11th time in its last 12 road games.
Chucky Brown and Hot Rod Williams each scored 18 points for the Cavaliers, who overcame a pair of 12-point second-quarter deficits. Daugherty had 11 points in the third quarter and five more in the fourth, but sprained his right foot in the final minute of the game.
John Williams led Washington with 26 points.