Most teams that are forced to endure the indignity of a first-round playoff sweep are usually plagued, for stretches which sometimes last several minutes, by bad luck and close calls.

But for the Houston Rockets, it took just a fraction of a second on two separate occasions to be expelled so swiftly.The Rockets sealed their tenuous postseason existence Tuesday night when they were whistled for a critical inbounds violation in the closing seconds of Game 3, contibuting to a 94-90 loss - and a three-game sweep - at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.

With 16.9 seconds remaining and Houston trailing 90-88 after Byron Scott's jumper gave the Lakers the lead, Otis Thorpe was unable to inbound the ball from halfcourt over the outstretched arms of Sam Perkins. Referee Wally Rooney called a five-second violation before Thorpe could call timeout.

"I don't know what he (Rooney) was looking at," Thorpe said. "It came down to one of those times when the officials controlled what happened. The thing that bothers me is that we ended our season too soon."

Rooney said: "I counted five seconds and blew my whistle. That's when Otis called time out. I'd already called the violation. Pure and simple."

Houston Coach Don Chaney was unsure.

"It was awfully close," Chaney said. "I'll have to see the tape over and over, but I thought we had it. We just can't leave a guy out of bounds stranded.

Earlier in the series, Los Angeles secured a win when Scott hit a disputed jumper in the final seconds of Game 1. That controversial bucket, which proved to be the difference in the contest, fueled a protest by Houston, which argued the shot came after the 24-second clock expired.

Magic Johnson scored 24 of his 38 points in the second half in helping the Lakers advance to the Western Conference semifinals. They will meet the winner of the San Antonio-Golden State series.

Lakers Coach Mike Dunleavy attributed his team's success to defense and Perkins' efforts Tuesday.

"We were in full denial," Dunleavy said. "We wanted Sam on the ball because of his long arms. We did not want to give an easy pass."

Hakeem Olajuwon and Thorpe each scored 21 points for the Rockets, who were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the fourth straight season.

"I'm still in shock," Olajuwon said. "I don't like making excuses. Two of three games could have gone either way. I never thought we would be swept."

The Lakers improved to 24-1 in first-round games since the NBA expanded to a 16-team format in 1984.

Bulls 103, Knicks 94

At New York, Michael Jordan scored 15 of his 33 points in the third quarter to lead Chicago to a three-game sweep. Scottie Pippen scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Will Perdue added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who will face Philadelphia in the second round.

76ers 121, Bucks 100

At Philadelphia, Charles Barkley scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help the 76ers complete a three-game sweep. Hersey Hawkins had 24 points and Armon Gilliam and Ron Anderson added 18 each.

Pistons 103, Hawks 91

At Atlanta, Joe Dumars pumped in 24 of his 30 points in the second half to help the Pistons overcome a 17-point deficit and take a 2-1 lead in their series. Dumars scored 12 third-quarter points to help the Pistons take a 76-71 lead after three periods.

SuperSonics 102, Trail Blazers 99

At Seattle, Sedale Threatt scored a career-high 29 points and hit a three-pointer with four seconds left to give Seattle its first playoff victory in two years and keep the Sonics alive.