Kareem Abdul-Jabbar celebrated his 42nd birthday and the Miami Heat still couldn't hold a candle to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the first three meetings between the expansion Heat and the Lakers, Los Angeles won by 47, 32 and 40 points. On Sunday night, the Lakers won 121-108 and took a one-game edge over Phoenix for the Pacific Division and Western Conference lead with four games to play."I think there was a little pride factor from our standpoint," Heat center Scott Hastings said. "The last three times we played them, the spread was in the high 30s. We didn't want to go home this summer and tell everyone we played pretty well against everyone in the league, but the Lakers were 40 points better than us."
Abdul-Jabbar, the oldest player in the history of the NBA and its all-time leading scorer, was received with a standing ovation from a sellout crowd at the Forum when his birthday was acknowledged by the public address announcer in the first period. He played only 16 minutes, making six of seven shots for 12 points.
Abdul-Jabbar said that when he joined the NBA in 1969 with the Milwaukee Bucks, the idea of playing this long "was an entirely alien concept to me. I don't know how I did it, but here I am."
Magic Johnson scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and Byron Scott added 21 points for the Lakers, who have won seven consecutive division titles.
The Heat, losers of 12 straight road games and 38 of their first 40, got 27 points from Kevin Edwards and 15 each from Grant Long and Hastings. Miami's only two road victories have come against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Pistons 104, Bullets 98
Detroit completed a sweep of its five-game series with Washington and pulled within one victory or one Cleveland loss of clinching the best record in the NBA.
Mark Aguirre scored four of his 19 points during a 9-0 third-quarter run that put the Pistons in position to win their 18th consecutive home game.
Cavaliers 111, Bulls 92
Cleveland handed Chicago its sixth consecutive defeat as Larry Nance scored 10 of his 26 points during a decisive 12-2 run at the end of the first half.
The Cavaliers, 5-0 this season against the Bulls, will face Chicago in the first round of the playoffs if the current standings remain the same in the final week. Chicago beat Cleveland three games to two in the first round last year.
Cleveland outscored the Bulls 35-23 in the third period to seal the outcome. Ron Harper scored 12 of his 21 points in the quarter, including a fast-break dunk that gave the Cavaliers a 90-67 lead at the buzzer.
76ers 115, Knicks 112
Philadelphia won its season series with New York 4-2 behind Mike Gminski's 25 points and Charles Barkley's 22.
The 76ers led by as many as 26 points in the first half, but fell behind 112-111 on a 15-foot jumper by Patrick Ewing with 10 seconds left. Barkley then made two free throws and Gminski made two more.
Rockets 114, Mavericks 112, OT
Houston put Dallas on the verge of elimination as Akeem Olajuwon had 34 points and 19 rebounds.
The loss means the Mavericks must win their last three games and Portland must lose its last four for Dallas to gain the eighth and final Western Conference spot.
Otis Thorpe's basket with 1:34 left in overtime completed the Rockets' comeback from a 22-point deficit after Olajuwon tied the game at 104 on a basket with 35 seconds left in regulation. Dallas' chance to send the game into a second overtime failed when Brad Davis hit the rim on a layup at the buzzer.
Roy Tarpley had 28 points and 14 rebounds and Derek Harper added 27 points for the Mavericks. Harper made four 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the first half as Dallas took a 64-50 halftime lead.
Bucks 100, Nets 96
Milwaukee pulled within a game of Atlanta in the race for fourth place in the Eastern Conference by beating New Jersey.
Ricky Pierce scored 22 points and Sidney Moncrief 19 for the Bucks, who will enjoy a homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs if they can catch the Hawks.
Mike McGee led New Jersey with 26 points, while Chris Morris had 20 points and 10 rebounds.