Nobody wants to play the Detroit Pistons in the best-of-five series that opens the playoffs in the National Basketball Assn.
The Pistons aren’t just the team with the best record in the league, they are the team coming up to the playoffs with the most momentum.
In the first round the Pistons figure to play either Philadelphia or Boston.
That’s one of the reasons why the 76ers and Celtics engaged in a playoff-type game Tuesday night at Philadelphia. The team that finishes with the seventh best record in the East plays New York.
The Celtics, who went into the game 1 1/2 games behind the 76ers, have a poor road record and were without injured Kevin McHale, but it still took the best of Charles Barkley for the 76ers to pull out a 117-115 overtime victory.
Barkley had 27 points, 12 rebounds and three steals in another superb performance. He made a dunk with 27 seconds left in regulation to tie the score, 102-102. Then, he made a free throw with 34 seconds left in the extra period and it proved decisive, forcing Dennis Johnson to miss a free throw on purpose with two seconds left.
The Celtics, who have played almost the entire season without their best player, Larry Bird, now have McHale out with a foot injury.
Although they didn’t win, the Celtics still have 14 games remaining and they are playing better than the 76ers.
Especially encouraging is the play of youngsters Reggie Lewis and rookie Brian Shaw. Lewis had a career-high 39 points, while Shaw, the 6-foot-6 guard from UC Santa Barbara, had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
A rookie also was big for the 76ers. Hersey Hawkins had eight of his 21 points in the five-minute overtime. His three-point basket with 1:24 left in overtime gave the 76ers a four-point lead.
New Jersey 111, Atlanta 108--The Nets, beaten by Miami by 21 points Monday night, turned on the Hawks in this game at East Rutherford, N.J., to end a 10-game losing streak.
Roy Hinson scored six of his 25 points in the last two minutes to give the lowly Nets their first win against the Hawks after 16 consecutive defeats.
It was Hinson’s 10-foot jumper with 14 seconds left that clinched the victory.
The stunning loss dropped the Hawks two games behind Chicago in the battle for fourth place in the Central Division.
San Antonio 130, Washington 114--With a chance to close in on the Celtics in their try for the final playoff spot in the East, the Bullets played one of their poorest games.
Willie Anderson scored 29 points and Alvin Robertson 28 to lead the weak Spurs to just their 19th victory in 69 games.
The Spurs went to the front early and seemed to get better after Coach Larry Brown was ejected after picking up two technicals in the second quarter. They soared to a 23-point lead in the third quarter before easing off.
Chicago 115, Golden State 106--Every time Michael Jordan sets a goal, he accomplishes it. First, he decided to become a scoring champ and he did that with ease.
Then last year he decided to become the best defensive player. He did.
After Bulls’ Coach Doug Collins decided his team would be better with Jordan at the point guard instead of the shooting guard, Jordan had a new goal----to become the best playmaker.
Although he’s been at it for only 10 games, Jordan has already served notice to John Stockton and Magic Johnson.
Jordan, in this game at Chicago, scored 33 points and has his second consecutive triple-double as the Bulls won their fifth in a row. The previous four were at the conclusion of a trip West.
Jordan had 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Bulls handed the Warriors their fourth consecutive defeat and seventh in a row on the road.
The Warriors built a 52-47 lead late in the third quarter but Horace Grant scored on a turnaround jumper that ignited a 19-4 spurt that put the Bulls in command.
New York 128, Portland 124--Mark Jackson, just recently returned after knee surgery, had a triple-double at New York and Kiki Vandeweghe, in his first game against his old mates, had 24 points to lead the Knicks.
Jackson had 21 of his 27 points in the second half to hold off the determined Trail Blazers. He also had 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
Houston 120, Seattle 117--Akeem Olajuwon scored 17 of his 36 points in the pivotal fourth quarter at Houston and the Rockets needed them all to hold off the SuperSonics.
The other Rockets scored only seven points in the 12 minutes against the Sonics.
Cleveland 102, Dallas 90--Almost every other team has been hammering the hapless Mavericks lately, but the Cavaliers struggled for more than a half at Richfield, Ohio before handing Dallas its 11th consecutive defeat.
Ron Harper saved them. He scored 15 of his points in a 26-11 spurt late in the third quarter that broke open a close game.