As he does almost every time they meet, Akeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets outplayed Maverick center James Donaldson Friday night at Dallas.
Olajuwon outscored Donaldson, 23-16, and out-rebounded him, 12-7.
But if the Rockets fail to make the playoffs, they will remember that Donaldson’s perfect shooting did them in.
Donaldson made seven of seven from the field and sank two free throws with 13 seconds to play to give the Mavericks a 121-120 victory.
The free throws gave Dallas a 121-117 lead. Sleepy Floyd, who scored 35 points for the Rockets, launched a three-point shot that Roy Tarpley of Dallas tipped in to make the score 121-120. The Rockets stole the ball with four seconds left, but misfired on a pass and were unable to get off a shot.
“You see all the things you could have done better, all the opportunities you didn’t capitalize on,” Olajuwon said. “But now, it’s too late.”
Until this loss and Seattle’s 121-99 victory over the Clippers, the Rockets controlled their destiny in the battle for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Both teams have a game left. If the Sonics win at Golden State Sunday, they will qualify for postseason play. For Houston to make it, the Warriors would have to beat Seattle and the Rockets would have to beat Utah.
“Now we’ve got to cross our fingers and hope we get some help,” Rocket forward Otis Thorpe said. “We’ve got to hope that the cards fall for us.”
Maverick Coach Richie Adubato, trying to keep his team fresh for the playoffs, went with reserves much of the second half. But when the Rockets moved ahead by three points, he went back to his starters in the final five minutes.
“We were playing awful relaxed tonight,” Maverick guard Steve Alford said. “We were excited about making the playoffs and wanted to get ready.”
Derek Harper scored 26 points for Dallas.
Cleveland 118, Orlando 104--Larry Nance had 16 points and 15 rebounds at Orlando as the Cavaliers won their fifth in a row to clinch the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Mark Price had 19 points for the Cavaliers, who beat out Atlanta for the eighth playoff spot.
“We just made the playoffs after an 11-16 start, but maybe we can make a move in the playoffs,” Nance said. “Last year we had a big season and were knocked out early.”
If the Cavaliers beat New York Sunday, they will not have to face defending champion Detroit in the opening best-of-five series.
San Antonio 112, Denver 108--David Robinson scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds at Denver as the Spurs moved close to the Midwest Division title.
Denver, which clinched a playoff berth Thursday night, led most of the game. The Nuggets led, 99-98, with 4:11 left, but Rod Strickland scored four points in a 9-2 run that put the Spurs in command.
The Spurs, who set a record by winning 34 more games than they did last season, can win the division by beating Phoenix on Sunday.
Utah 97, Minnesota 89--Karl Malone scored 25 of his 36 points in the second half at Salt Lake City to help the Jazz rally for the victory.
John Stockton had 17 points and 18 assists and the Jazz remained tied with San Antonio for first place in the Midwest Division.
But the Spurs beat Utah in the season’s series, 3-2, and would win the division if the teams tie. Utah finishes the regular season Sunday at Houston.
The Timberwolves led most of the game and took a 74-70 lead into the fourth quarter. But Malone scored 10 points in a 19-7 run that put the Jazz in command.
Boston 120, Chicago 116--The Bulls’ Michael Jordan had 45 points, eight rebounds and nine assists at Boston, but it wasn’t enough.
The Celtics, playing without ailing Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson, were led by Reggie Lewis with 28 points.
Atlanta 126, New York 112--Dominique Wilkins scored 14 of his 32 points in the third quarter at New York to lead the Hawks.
But the Hawks’ hopes of making the playoffs were dashed when Cleveland defeated Orlando.
Detroit 121, Indiana 115--Mark Aguirre scored 25 points at Indianapolis to lead the Pistons in overtime.
The Pacers and Pistons are probable opponents in the first round of the playoffs.
Miami 117, Washington 112--Sherman Douglas made six free throws in the closing minutes at Miami to help the Heat halt a nine-game losing streak.
Miami made its last 11 free throws after missing nine of 10.
Phoenix 123, Golden State 106--The Suns kept alive their hopes for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by winning at Phoenix.
If Phoenix beats San Antonio on Sunday and Houston beats Utah, the Suns would have the advantage in the opening round.