It was of little solace to the Cleveland Cavaliers that they became the first team in the National Basketball Assn. to clinch a playoff position Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers qualified for postseason action when Indiana knocked off Washington, but when the rejuvenated Philadelphia 76ers held off a late surge to earn a 100-97 victory at Philadelphia, it sent the Cavaliers reeling into second place in the Central Division.
Buoyed shortly before the game by reports that center Mike Gminski had agreed to a contract that would keep him in Philadelphia for four more seasons, the 76ers snapped out of a mild slump.
Charles Barkley scored 27 points and had 21 rebounds to lead the 76ers, but it was two free throws by Gminski with eight seconds left that clinched the victory.
The Cavaliers, trailing by 17 points in the second quarter, made a spirited rally, and baskets by Brad Daugherty and Mark Price cut the deficit to 98-97 with nearly two minutes left. The only points the rest of the way were Gminski’s. Craig Ehlo missed a three-point shot in an effort to tie, and Barkley pulled down the rebound at the buzzer.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the 6-foot 11-inch Gminski, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the season, has agreed to terms. The paper said the announcement would be made next week.
Gminski figured to get numerous offers, including one from the Lakers, if he decided to become a free agent. Good centers are hard to find.
The 76ers had lost two games in a row, and Barkley had played without spirit in recent games. Moreover, the 76ers’ once-comfortable margin over the Boston Celtics in the battle for the seventh playoff spot in the East was down to two games.
Wednesday night, Barkley controlled the boards at both ends, enabling the 76ers to win despite shooting only 43.4%.
The Cavaliers shot 55.2% but they were badly beaten on the boards and had 32 fewer shots than the 76ers.
“We had not been rebounding well,” Barkley said, “ands I decided it was up to me to take charge. I finally got my share.”
The Cavaliers are 48-18 but trail Detroit, which is 47-17, by .007.
Chicago 112, Phoenix 111--The move of scoring champion Michael Jordan to point guard appears to be paying off for the Bulls.
With Jordan leading the way, the Bulls followed the stunning win over the Lakers at the Forum Tuesday night with another victory at Phoenix.
Jordan scored 18 of his 32 points in the second half as the Bulls, who led most of the way, barely held on.
The win gave the Bulls a 39-26 record and sole possession of fourth place in the tough Central Division.
The defeat ended the Suns’ five-game winning streak and dropped them 3 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division.
Miami 107, New York 103--The Knicks’ slim hopes of finishing with the best overall record became slimmer when they couldn’t beat the Heat at Miami.
Kevin Edwards scored 26 points to lead the expansion team to its 11th victory in 66 games. The Heat made its last 19 free throws to prevail in a tight finish.
Miami led, 97-93, when Patrick Ewing scored five points in a matter of seconds to put New York ahead. Ewing sank a turnaround jumper, then stole the inbounds pass and converted it into a three-point play. He gave the Knicks a 98-97 lead with 2:14 left.
But Edwards hit a jumper, and Scott Hastings extended the lead to three with another jumper. The Knicks never caught up.
The Heat shot only 41.1% from the field, but the Knicks weren’t much better at 42.4%.
Detroit 115, San Antonio 94--The Pistons, after a tough game Tuesday night at Atlanta, were slow to begin at San Antonio. But Joe Dumars scored six of his 20 points in a 17-3 second-quarter spurt that broke the game open, and the Pistons breezed into first place in the Central Division.
The win put the Pistons 30 games above .500 (47-17) for the first time in franchise history.
Bill Laimbeer had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit, while Frank Brickowski had 20 points for San Antonio.
Indiana 101, Washington 92--Detlef Schrempf came off the bench at Indianapolis to score 22 points, and the Pacers dealt a severe blow to the Bullets’ playoff hopes.
The Bullets, still without Jeff Malone, their injured leading scorer, fell three games behind Boston in the fight for the final playoff spot in the East.