The Washington Bullets have been unbeatable at home the past month. Unfortunately, their entire season depends on how they fare on the road Sunday.
Washington stretched its home winning streak to eight games Friday night by defeating Orlando 104-93, but the Bullets will have to beat Cleveland at Gund Arena on Sunday to end their eight-year playoff drought.
“This is the first time in a long time that this team has had something to play for in the 82nd game. Now we’re going to try to finish it off,” Bullets coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.
Rod Strickland had 27 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Bullets, who needed a win and a Cleveland loss in Detroit to clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers’ victory over the Pistons means the winner of Sunday’s Cleveland-Washington game will enter the postseason and the loser will go home.
“It’s not very difficult. If we just go out and play the way we’re capable of playing, we’ll win the game,” said Washington’s Calbert Cheaney, who had 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Juwan Howard scored 25 and Chris Webber 18 as the Bullets won for the 15th time in 20 games. Their eight-game home streak is the team’s longest since the 1988-89 season.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd and in a playoff-like atmosphere, the Bullets pulled away in the third quarter.
Penny Hardaway had 20 points for the Magic, who already have wrapped up the seventh seed in the East.
Terrell Brandon had 23 points and seven assists as Cleveland kept its playoff hopes alive with an 82-75 victory over Detroit.
It was just Cleveland’s fourth road win against a team with a winning record. The Pistons were held to their lowest point total of the season.
Bobby Sura added 16 points for Cleveland, while Chris Mills and Danny Ferry had 12 each.
Grant Hill and Terry Mills each scored 14 points for Detroit, which has already clinched a playoff berth.
Cleveland led 39-38 at halftime on two free throws by Chris Mills with less than a second left. The Cavs then held Detroit scoreless the first 6 minutes of the third quarter en route to a 50-38 lead. Brandon had five points in the 11-0 run.
Celtics avoid record
David Wesley scored 28 points as the Boston Celtics avoided being the first team in NBA history to go winless in their own division by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 119-113.
The win, only Boston’s second in nine games this month, was the Celtics’ first in the Atlantic Division, where they had gone 0-23 this season. It was only the Celtics’ fourth road win of the season.
Rookie Antoine Walker was the difference down the stretch, scoring nine fourth-quarter points.
Elden Campbell scored 21 points and Shaquille O’Neal added 18 as the Los Angeles Lakers routed the crosstown rival Clippers 123-95 for their fourth straight victory.
The victory moved the Lakers into a three-way tie with Houston and idle Seattle for second in the Western Conference. Because they have the tiebreaker advantage over Seattle, the Lakers can wrap up the Pacific Division title by winning at Portland on Sunday.
Charles Barkley grabbed 18 rebounds and scored seven straight points for Houston in overtime, leading the Rockets over the Dallas Mavericks 112-102.
The Rockets can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference by beating the San Antonio Spurs in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
The New York Knicks clinched homecourt advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs with a 97-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The victory set up a showdown tonight between the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls, with plenty at stake for both teams. Chicago will be going for an unprecedented second consecutive 70-win season; New York will be playing for the third seed in the East and a probable first-round matchup with slumping Detroit.
Stephon Marbury tied a team record with 17 assists, leading Minnesota over Milwaukee 122-112 in the Timberwolves’ final regular-season home game.
Marbury also finished with 17 points as the playoff-bound Wolves had their highest-scoring game of the season and snapped a three-game Target Center losing streak.