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Rockets 97, Mavericks 91

March 11, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ Clyde Drexler scored 24 points and three players returned from one-game suspensions to help to the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks 97-91 Tuesday night.

Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Willis and Mario Elie had missed Monday night’s game against Utah, penalized for fighting in Saturday’s game against Phoenix.

Willis had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Olajuwon got 13 points, eight rebounds and four stitches over his right eye after colliding with Cedric Ceballos. Elie did not play.

Houston led 60-45 at halftime and 79-64 going into the fourth quarter but almost blew a 96-76 lead with 4:53 to play. The Rockets were outscored 15-1 over the rest of the game.

Michael Finley had 25 points and Ceballos added 24 for the Mavericks, aided in their final run by Martin Muursepp, who had a 3-pointer with 36 seconds to go. That made it 96-89.

After Brent Price scored Houston’s final point with 20 seconds left, the Mavs’ Chris Anstey made a basket with 15.3 seconds remaining.

Drexler had 12 of his 18 first-half points as the Rockets took a 60-45 lead.

Dallas’ last lead came in the closing minutes of the first quarter, 24-23 on a 3-point basket. Drexler responded with a 3-pointer and the Rockets never trailed again.

Notes: Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich has used 16 different starting lineups in an injury-filled season. Dallas coach Don Nelson has used 24 lineups in 45 games as head coach. ... Charles Barkley and Kevin Willis each played in their 1,000th games, becoming the 51st and 52nd players to reach the milestone. ... Olajuwon suspension was the first for fighting in his 14-year career.

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