Scottie Pippen, scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting in the first half, had 15 third-quarter points as the Chicago Bulls took control and went on to defeat Cleveland 84-71 Friday night.
Michael Jordan scored 22 points for the Bulls, who rebounded from Thursday's loss at Washington to post their 30th consecutive home victory. Brian Williams made his debut for Chicago, which improved to 64-10 overall and 37-1 at the United Center.Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill scored 18 points apiece for the Cavaliers (38-36), which remained tied with Washington in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with eight games to go. Brandon and Hill were 15-of-25 from the field, the rest of the team 13-for-48 (27 percent).
The Bulls, whose magic number for clinching homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs is one, were without NBA rebounding leader Dennis Rodman (sprained knee ligament) and top reserve Toni Kukoc (sprained foot).
Williams, a fine player for the Los Angeles Clippers last year who unsuccessfully tested the free-agent market and has spent this season recuperating from knee surgery, was signed for the league minimum salary to shore up the Bulls' power forward position.
He entered the game at the start of the second quarter and quickly endeared himself to Chicago fans by scoring two rebound baskets. Williams finished with six points in eight minutes.
Hawks 103, Pistons 89
At Atlanta, Christian Laettner scored 30 points, including 12 straight in the third period to help build an 18-point lead and the Hawks pulled into a tie with the Pistons for the all-important fourth playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks, in beating the Pistons for the first time in four tries this season, improved to 34-4 at the Omni by winning their eighth in nine games.
All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures. Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith each had 21, Tyrone Corbin 13 and Dikembo Mutombo 11. Grant Hill led Detroit with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, but was held to only five points in the second half.
Pacers 114, 76ers 103
At Philadelphia, Travis Best came off the bench to score a career-high 27 points as the Pacers kept their playoff hopes alive.
The Pacers remained in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, with the top eight teams making the playoffs. Indiana began the night three games behind Washington and Cleveland, both of which had later starts Friday night.
Clippers 117, Celtics 102
At Boston, reserve Lamond Murray scored 24 points in 16 minutes as the Clippers sent the Celtics to their 29th loss in 31 games.
The Celtics, depleted by injuries, had only four substitutes and they were outscored 63-5 by Los Angeles' backups with all five of those points coming on free throws.
Timberwolves 97, Bullets 95
At Minneapolis, Tom Gugliotta hit a jumper with 16 seconds remaining to cap a game-ending 10-0 run for the Timberwolves.
Gugliotta finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Garnett added 22 points for Minnesota, which extended its winning streak to three games and snapped Washington's winning streak at six games.
Magic 93, Knicks 84
At New York, Danny Schayes outplayed Patrick Ewing, and Orlando, despite missing three starters, ended a four-game losing streak. Schayes, starting in place of Rony Seikaly, outscored Ewing 21-20 and outrebounded him 11-7. Both numbers were season highs for the 37-year-old Schayes, who was making just his fifth start of the season.
Suns 122, Nuggets 113
At Denver, Kevin Johnson scored 24 points and Danny Manning added 20 as the Phoenix Suns posted their eighth straight victory, a decision over a Denver Nuggets team that lost leading scorer LaPhonso Ellis to an apparently serious ankle injury (see accompanying story).
Trail Blazers 108, Bucks 93
At Portland, Ore., Isaiah Rider scored 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Blazers, winners of 15 of their last 18 games, weren't challenged after scoring 10 straight points during a two-minute span late in the second quarter that provided a 16-point lead at halftime.
Spurs 94, Lakers 83
At Inglewood, Calif., Dominique Wilkins scored 28 points as the Spurs ended the Lakers' five-game winning streak.
Monty Williams added 18 points and Avery Johnson had 12 for Spurs, who ended a two-game losing streak. Sean Rooks had 20 points and 12 rebounds for Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant added 15 points.
Rockets 108, Kings 94
At Sacramento, Calif., Clyde Drexler scored 17 of his 20 points in the third quarter to power the Rockets.
Hakeem Olajuwon added 25 points and Charles Barkley had 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Rockets won for the fifth time in six games and swept the season series from the Kings 4-0.