NBA ROUNDUP : Defense Moves Denver Closer to Playoffs

From Associated Press

The Denver Nuggets picked a good time to tighten their defense--about the time the San Antonio Spurs started missing shots--and moved closer to clinching a playoff spot.

The Nuggets got 18 points from Rodney Rogers, including a basket with 15 seconds to play in an 83-78 victory at San Antonio.

Combined with the Lakers' loss to the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix, it put Denver five games ahead in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot with six games to play.

The Nuggets took advantage of San Antonio's poor fourth-quarter shooting. The Spurs scored their last points from the field on Lloyd Daniels' jump shot with 7:31 to play and made only three of 15 shots in the fourth quarter.

"We are not playing like a team with a lot at stake right now," said San Antonio center David Robinson, who had 32 points and 12 rebounds. "We're just not creating anything on offense. There was not a lot of movement out there at times."

Dennis Rodman had 18 rebounds for San Antonio, but the Nuggets outrebounded the Spurs, 43-36. LaPhonso Ellis and Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 10 rebounds each for Denver.

Spur Coach John Lucas said his team simply isn't playing well.

"Whenever you have two guys get all the rebounds--David and Dennis had 30 out of 36 rebounds--that's a major problem. We've got some problems right now, but we'll get them solved," Lucas said.

Still, it took a 6-0 run for Denver to take a 78-72 lead with 2:45 to play. And the Spurs came back on Robinson's free throws to within 78-76 with 34 seconds to play.

Rogers, who has struggled all season, averaging only 7.9 points a game, then made a shot to give Denver control.

Denver's Robert Pack sealed the victory with three free throws in the final seconds.

"It's a been a long and tough season, and I feel like I've learned a lot," Rogers said. "It's been a learning experience for me, and I still have a long way to go. But a game like tonight sure does help."

Chicago 96, Miami 90--Scottie Pippen scored 27 points and made a crucial defensive play at Miami to help the Bulls to their ninth consecutive victory.

Steve Kerr hit two free throws to put Chicago ahead, 92-88, and Horace Grant's jump shot made the score 94-90. Pippen then blocked an attempted dunk by Grant Long with 40 seconds to play to seal the victory.

In the competition for home-court playoff advantage, Chicago, the three-time defending NBA champion, has tied New York for second place in the East, half a game behind Atlanta.

Miami lost its third in a row and 10th in 12 games. The Heat's magic number remained three for clinching its second playoff berth in franchise history. Any combination of Heat victories and Charlotte losses totaling three will put the Heat in the playoffs.

Atlanta 110, Cleveland 95--Mookie Blaylock scored 19 points and ignited two 14-0 runs in the first half as the Hawks took control early at Atlanta by making 23 of their first 29 shots.

Boston 109, Detroit 96--The Celtics used a 26-4 burst to turn a one-point game into a rout at Boston. Detroit has lost its last seven games.

Indiana 115, Philadelphia 87--Byron Scott scored a season-high 21 points and the Pacers established season highs for rebounds and assists at Philadelphia.

New Jersey 107, Milwaukee 105--Reserve Johnny Newman's jump shot with 1.3 seconds to play at Milwaukee lifted the Nets past the Bucks and into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

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