The San Antonio Spurs moved closer to winning their second straight Midwest Division championship while putting the Houston Rockets in their place.
Terry Cummings scored 21 points and David Robinson, despite playing just seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, finished with 18 Thursday night, leading the Spurs to a 102-95 victory over Houston in the tight Midwest Division.The Spurs maintained a one-game lead over Utah, winners Thursday over visiting Seattle, in the division race with two games to play.
Houston had to beat the Spurs to keep its slim title hopes alive, but the loss knocked the Rockets out of the division race - they are three games behind the Spurs - and assured Houston of the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. That means Houston will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the best-of-five first-round series.
The Midwest is the only undecided division race in the NBA, and Thursday's action was light.
Houston trailed by as many as 13 in the second half, but four 3-pointers drew the Rockets within 76-68 entering the fourth quarter.
Eric "Sleepy" Floyd hit a 22-footer, then stole the inbounds pass for a layup to pull the Rockets within 86-82 with 6:25 left, and a pair of Hakeem Olajuwon free throws with 2:24 left cut the Spurs lead to 94-91. But Cummings hit a baseline jumper and added a free throw for a 97-91 lead with 1:34 left and put the game out of reach.
"Our team is settling down and getting ready for the playoffs," said Cummings. "Road basketball prepares you for the playoffs more than anything else."
The Spurs, who are also seeking to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, have won three straight and eight of their last 11. They play lowly Denver and Dallas in their final two regular-season games.
The one minor concern for the Spurs: Robinson took a hit in the mouth early in the contest and needed stitches after the game.
Floyd came off the bench to score 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Olajwuon also scored 19 for the Rockets, who have lost two straight, but only nine of their last 40. However, the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star break appears to have lost some intensity.
"Our level has dropped at both ends," said Houston Coach Don Chaney. "We have to start playing hard `down in the trenches' basketball. We're not playing well as a team."
"I think this may be good for us," added Olajuwon. "Hopefully, it will wake us up for the last two games. Our intensity has not been there.
"The playoffs are what it is all about and we need to win the last two games to get ready."
76ers 122, Celtics 97
In Philadelphia, Barkley, who partially tore his medial collateral ligament on March 31, was in the 76ers lineup and scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds in 24 minutes to spark the win. Barkley was wearing a brace to protect his injured left knee. Kevin Gamble scored a career-high 33 points for the Celtics, who lost their fourth straight road game. Larry Bird missed his seventh straight game because of a bad back and Reggie Lewis also sat out with back spasms. But the game was meaningless for the Atlantic Division-champion Celtics because Chicago had already clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Nets 108, Bullets 103
In Landover, Md., Derrick Coleman's 29 points helped New Jersey end a 20-game road losing streak. New Jersey's last road win came Jan. 26 at Miami. The defeat was the 50th this season for Washington, giving the franchise its first back-to-back 50-defeat season since the first two years of team's inception, 1961-62 and 1962-63 when it was in Chicago.
Kings 123, Nuggets 104
At Sacramento, Calif., rookie Duane Causewell set a franchise record with nine blocked shots and fellow rookie Lionel Simmons scored a game-high 26 points to hand Denver their 10th-straight loss. Simmons, who sat out the Kings' 36th-straight road loss at Utah Tuesday, made 11-of-18 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Kings.