Mark Price scored 27 points and Larry Nance blocked seven shots Monday as the Cleveland Cavaliers used a relentless defense to beat the Houston Rockets in a showdown of division leaders, 110-90, at Richfield, Ohio.
The Cavaliers, with the league's best record at 39-12, swarmed over Akeem Olajuwon whenever he touched the ball and made the Rocket center work hard for all of his 21 points, more than three under his average.
The Rockets had a four-game winning streak stopped. It marked only the second time Cleveland has beaten Houston in their last 10 meetings.
"That team is scary," said Rocket Coach Don Chaney, whose team beat Cleveland by one point at home in December. "They have tremendous size. That's the key to their defense. You may beat one guy, and the next guy either blocks the shot or intimidates you so you won't make it."
The Cavaliers led by eight at the half and gradually widened the margin to as many as 20 in the third quarter.
Brad Daugherty made four straight free throws to open the fourth quarter and John Williams added a fast-break dunk to put the Cavaliers up, 94-70, their biggest lead of the game.
Denver 103, Detroit 101--Alex English's 30 points and a missed 18-footer by Detroit's Isiah Thomas with three seconds left in the game enabled the Nuggets to withstand a furious Piston rally for the win at Denver.
Thomas' shot hit the rim and he rebounded under the basket. But Fat Lever stole the ball before Thomas could get off another shot.
It was the Pistons' second straight two-point loss. They lost 121-119 in overtime to Golden State on Saturday.
"This is the first time in a long time I have seen all the guys juiced up and ready to give it their all," said Nugget Bill Hanzlik. "We played hard, with great intensity and we deserved to win."
Mark Aguirre, acquired by Detroit in a trade with Dallas for Adrian Dantley last week, made a 10-footer and a free throw with 3:47 to play to put the Pistons ahead, 95-92. He finished with 14 points.
Chicago 102, Portland 98--Michael Jordan awakened a sleepy Chicago offense in the fourth quarter, and top draft choice Will Perdue, getting a rare chance to contribute in crucial situations, made two key baskets at Chicago as the Bulls got their third straight victory.
Jordan scored 33 points, including 12 in the final quarter. He made five straight free throws near the end of the game.
The Bulls led, 88-74, only to have it cut to 97-92 with 1:03 left. But Portland's Terry Porter missed a three-point shot, and Jordan made two free throws with 25 seconds left to clinch the victory.
After a three-point basket with 23 seconds to play by Portland's Sam Bowie, who had 19 points, Jordan made two more free throws with 17 seconds remaining.
James Donaldson added 16 points and 21 rebounds as Dallas outrebounded the Spurs, 59-30.
Frank Brickowski had 24 to lead San Antonio, which lost its seventh straight.
John Stockton had 19 points and 17 assists for the Jazz, while Thurl Bailey added 17 points and Darrell Griffith 16.
New Jersey 117, Miami 109--Roy Hinson scored 24 points and Chris Morris 23 to lead the Nets' victory at East Rutherford, N.J.
Miami, which had trailed by 16 points late in the second quarter, rallied in the third period, twice taking one-point leads. The last came at 79-78 on two free throws by Kevin Edwards, who finished with a franchise-record 34 points.