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NBA ROUNDUP : East Race Continues to Heat Up

The Heat has the fever--playoff fever, that is.

Miami fans, after three frustrating NBA seasons, are finally getting something to cheer about.

Glen Rice scored 15 of his 29 points during the third quarter Friday night as the Heat held off the Denver Nuggets, 113-109.

There are six teams battling for the last three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. This victory, after a Miami victory over the Boston Celtics, gave the Heat a 30-34 record--tying it with the Philadelphia 76ers for sixth place in the East.

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Even veteran coach Kevin Loughery is getting excited.

“There is an awful lot more than just the final result involved for this young team,” he said after Tuesday’s victory over the Celtics.

“We’ll definitely be better for it. The games now are much more physical, they’re more intense, they’re tougher. This is a learning experience you must go through.”

In this game, Loughery wasn’t too happy with his team’s performance at the end, when it almost blew a big lead.

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“We were coasting and we were outhustled,” he said. “I haven’t chewed the guys out often this season, but I did tonight.”

Phoenix 108, Philadelphia 104--The 76ers, after rallying from an eight-point deficit to take the lead in the closing minutes at Philadelphia, lost at the line.

Charles Barkley had 31 points, but was ineffective during the last quarter after being caught in the nose by a stray elbow. Barkley’s nose was thought to be broken.

The 76ers, trailing by 98-90, took a 104-103 lead with 2:22 to play. The only points the rest of the game came on five free throws by the Suns.

Jeff Hornacek had two to put the Suns in front to stay and give him 35 points, a personal best.

Barkley, who said he couldn’t see or breath after being hit, was to undergo X-rays.

“Good luck in Milwaukee tomorrow night,” he said, indicating he might not be available.

New Jersey 110, Boston 108--After a 0-4 trip West, the Nets renewed their playoff hopes against the Celtics at Hartford, Conn.

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Drazen Petrovic scored 39 points, his most ever, to lead a comeback that wiped out a 19-point third-quarter deficit.

Petrovic scored eight points during a 12-4 run late in the quarter to cut the Boston lead to 88-76. During the fourth quarter, the Nets made 64% of their shots and pulled ahead in the final minute.

Larry Bird had 22 of his 28 points during the first half to lead the Celtics, who lost their third in a row and are 4 1/2 games behind New York in the Atlantic Division.

Orlando 98, Indiana 97--Terry Catledge scored 14 points during the fourth quarter at Orlando, including a rebound basket with three seconds remaining to hurt the Pacers’ playoff hopes.

The Pacers, led by Chuck Person’s 30 points, were in command for most of the night. A three-pointer by Person gave them a seven-point lead with 97 seconds remaining.

Portland 106, Atlanta 95--The best hope for the Hawks may be that with Dominique Wilkins out, teams will come into Atlanta expecting an easy time.

The Trail Blazers scored their seventh victory in a row, but it wasn’t easy. Clyde Drexler had 33 points, including eight in a row and a layup that gave the Blazers the lead for good, 68-67, midway through the fourth quarter.

Before losing their seventh in a row, the Hawks pulled to within three points with five minutes to play.

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Washington 118, Minnesota 115--Unsung Charles Jones made the key plays at Landover, Md., to offset a big game by Pooh Richardson.

Jones made a free throw to put the Bullets ahead, 116-115, with 40 seconds to play, then blocked Tony Campbell’s shot to preserve the lead.

Richardson had 22 points and 17 assists.

Houston 118, Charlotte 100--It wasn’t as easy for the Rockets at Houston as it looked.

After taking 12-point leads twice during the first half, Houston led by only 78-73 after three quarters. But Kenny Smith, who had 26 points, led a 40-point fourth quarter to seal the victory.

The Race

A look at the battle for the final three playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.

Records Remain Team W L H R Philadelphia 30 34 7 11 Miami 30 34 9 9 Atlanta 29 34 8 11 Indiana 30 36 10 6 New Jersey 28 35 11 8 Milwaukee 27 35 8 12

Key: H--Home; R--Road


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