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NBA briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001

Celtics within a game of eighth

Celtics within a game of eighth

WASHINGTON -- With their playoff chances hanging in the balance, the Celtics couldn't afford a letdown against the Wizards.

Antoine Walker had 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Celtics won Saturday 102-100 to move within a game of eighth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference. Boston has five games left; Indiana has seven.

"I feel good about our playoff chances," Walker said. "We're going to need a little luck on our side."

Reserve Eric Williams scored 20 and Chris Herren hit three key three-pointers in the fourth quarter for Boston.

Richard Hamilton scored 38 for the Wizards, including six straight early in the fourth quarter as Washington held its largest lead at 88-81. But consecutive three-pointers by Herren helped Boston to a 99-96 advantage with 4:23 left.

PISTONS 97, HORNETS 92: Jerry Stackhouse scored 30 and Ben Wallace had a career-high 24 rebounds to lead visiting Detroit. Charlotte, which started the week in fifth place in the East, slipped to sixth and is a half-game ahead of Orlando.

Detroit forward Billy Owens sat out with back spasms.

SPURS 93, CLIPPERS 83: Tim Duncan scored 32 and David Robinson scored 20 for visiting San Antonio, which led 28-11 after the first quarter.

SUNS 102, CAVALIERS 98: Shawn Marion scored 25 as visiting Phoenix clinched a playoff berth for the 13th consecutive season. Marion scored nine straight over 2:36 and Phoenix went on a 14-4 run for its first lead, 66-64 midway through the third quarter.

The Cavaliers closed within 98-96 with 17 seconds left on Clarence Weatherspooon's dunk but Phoenix's Tony Delk then drove for a score, was fouled on the play, and made the free throw, pushing the Suns lead to five.

ROCKETS 110, HAWKS 97: Steve Francis had 10 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter for Houston, which extended Atlanta's road losing streak to 11. With Houston leading 80-78 after the first basket of the fourth, Francis sparked a 28-14 run. Cuttino Mobley had seven points in the outburst.

NUGGETS 98, GRIZZLIES 97: James Posey had 22 points and 11 rebounds for host Denver. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who led Vancouver with 32 points, scored 10 of Vancouver's final 12 but his short jumper over a triple-team bounced on the rim four times before falling away in the final seconds as the Grizzlies lost their ninth straight road game.

JAZZ 116, MAVERICKS 103: Karl Malone scored seven of his 30 in a 19-0 run as Utah beat a playoff-bound team for the first time in four weeks and took over fourth place in the Western Conference. The Jazz scored the last 11 points of the first half to erase a five-point deficit, then ran off the first eight of the third quarter, opening a 56-42 lead on a jumper by Malone with 10:02 left.

TRAIL BLAZERS: Guard Bonzi Wells is doubtful for today's game at Sacramento. He sprained his left knee Friday against Golden State.

Van Gundy draws fire from pastor, players

The Knicks are dealing with a swirling controversy over coach Jeff Van Gundy's remarks about the negative influence of religion on the NBA.

Van Gundy told New York magazine he would like to limit the time the team chaplain, Pastor John Love, spends with his players before games. Allan Houston, Charlie Ward and Mark Jackson regularly attend Love's 10-minute pregame Bible study session.

Van Gundy said "the two worst things to happen to the NBA were God and golf. ... It used to be alcohol and women. I think we've given this guy, the pastor, too much freedom. Everyone is hugging before games, praying together. The interaction between opposing sides before games, the fraternization, is wrong for the league."

Van Gundy met with Houston, Ward and Jackson individually before Thursday's win against the Wizards to inform them about his comments and not to take them personally.

"When it comes to my faith and someone tries to take it away, I'll fight it to the end," Ward said.

"It's unfortunate Jeff Van Gundy feels that way, because I would like to believe I have a positive influence," Love said.

Late Friday

KINGS 118, GRIZZLIES 90: Chris Webber scored 36 as Sacramento established a franchise record for road victories at 21, breaking the mark set in 1948-49 by the Rochester Royals.

BLAZERS 122, WARRIORS 91: Arvydas Sabonis scored a season-high 32 and Damon Stoudamire had Portland's first triple double in more than six years.

CLIPPERS 113, BUCKS 110 (OT): The reserves scored 59, including Darius Miles' 26, and Sean Rooks made two free throws with 36 seconds left in overtime for host Los Angeles.

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TODAY ON TV: Knicks at Heat, 12:30, Ch. 8; Blazers at Kings, 3, Ch. 8; Lakers at T'wolves, 5:30, Ch. 8.

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