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ROCKETS PUSH THE SUNS TO BRINK OF ELIMINATION

SHARE ROCKETS PUSH THE SUNS TO BRINK OF ELIMINATION

The Houston Rockets broke fast and never stopped pushing themselves.

By doing so, they pushed the Phoenix Suns to the brink of playoff elimination.The Rockets scored an avalanche of points from the opening tip, built a 32-point fourth quarter lead and rolled to a 109-86 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night.

After blowing a 20-point lead in Game 2, the Rockets weren't about to let it happen a second time as they took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series.

"There was no letup tonight and that's unusual," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "That's rare in basketball that you don't have a lull somewhere."

Hakeem Olajuwon and Otis Thorpe each scored 20 points, leading a balanced Rockets attack. Everything clicked. The Rockets ran, they penetrated, they hit the open shots.

The Rockets treated their rejuvenated fans to a pair of 9-0 runs in the first quarter that gave them a 27-13 lead and they never allowed the Suns any breathing room.

Houston didn't let up in the second period, opening the quarter with a 10-1 run en route to a 58-37 halftime lead. Olajuwon and Thorpe each had 11 third-quarter points and both sat down early in the fourth period with the Rockets up by 95-63 with 9:09 to play.

Charles Barkley, stretching his aching back during timeouts, scored 20 first-half points. He finished with 30 and sat out much of the fourth quarter.

"I felt a lot better tonight," Barkley said. "It's been a real hard struggle physically for me, but I was 100 percent tonight."

Kevin Johnson cooled off with 10 points after scoring 38 in each of the two previous games. Oliver Miller added 13 for the Suns.

All the news wasn't positive for Houston, however. Carl Herrera sustained a dislocated shoulder in the second quarter. Herrera, a valuable rebounding replacement for Olajuwon, won't make the trip to Phoenix and could be lost 1-2 weeks.

Atlanta 88, Indiana 76

In Atlanta, Mookie Blaylock's excellence in all phases of the game did more than prolong the Eastern Conference semifinal series for the Atlanta Hawks.

It gave the Hawks a boost of confidence when they needed it most.

"This club has a knack of stringing together some good ones," Danny Manning said Tuesday night after the Hawks beat Indiana 88-76, cutting the Pacers' lead in the best-of-7 series to 3-2.

"We're playing hard and we'll continue to play hard," Manning said. "The onus is on Indiana now. We're coming back Sunday. We'll do whatever it takes."

The Hawks will have to win in Indianapolis on Thursday night just to get a chance to bring the series back to Atlanta.

Blaylock had his second triple double Tuesday night - 14 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. He also had four steals and blocked a shot.

Craig Ehlo came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 22 points, 12 of those in the third quarter, and Manning added 20. Reggie Miller made five of seven 3-pointers for Indiana, leading the Pacers with 22 points. Derrick McKey added 20 for Indiana.