Little at Stake on Last Day, But Nobody Told Shawn Kemp
An NBA season marred by violence ended, appropriately enough, with players fighting.
Miami and Sacramento clinched the final two spots Friday night, and the only thing at stake Sunday, the last day of the regular season, was seeding positions in the East.
New York locked up the fifth spot with a victory, Atlanta got the sixth seed and Detroit settled for the seventh spot.
Seattle, which secured the No. 1 seed in the West several weeks ago, could face the suspension of star forward Shawn Kemp, who was ejected for punching Tom Hammonds of Denver.
After hitting a 3-point shot midway through the third quarter for only his second basket of the game, Kemp exchanged words with Hammonds while running down the floor. Each player threw one punch and connected.
``If Shawn gets suspended, it will affect us,″ teammate Detlef Schrempf said. ``And if he doesn’t it will have no effect at all.″
The Sonics, who lost 99-88 to the Nuggets, have been eliminated in the first round the past two seasons.
Fighting-related suspensions were up more than 300 percent this season, and the league reacted by increasing penalties in the past month and threatening even harsher measures.
Even the mighty Chicago Bulls were involved in the violence. Backup center James Edwards fought Ledell Eackles of the Bullets, although neither player landed a particularly damaging punch.
Chicago went on to win 103-93 and finish the season 72-10.
``We’d have liked to have nine losses or less than that, but 72-10 sounds great and we’ll settle for that,″ Scottie Pippen said. ``Of course, our goal this season has always been to win the title, and that’s what we’re looking forward to now.″
The Knicks beat the Celtics 122-111 to lock up the fifth seed in the East. New York will play Cleveland in the best-of-5 first round.
Atlanta beat Miami 104-92 and will open the first round on the road against Indiana.
Atlanta’s victory was flashed on the Pistons’ scoreboard during the third quarter of the Detroit-Milwaukee game, ending any suspense over what seed the Pistons would have.
Knowing his team would face Orlando, Detroit coach Doug Collins emptied his bench in the second half of a 108-92 victory over Milwaukee.
Elsewhere around the league, players emptied their lockers and executives prepared to unload underachieving coaches. Brendan Malone was expecting to be fired Monday or Tuesday by the Toronto Raptors, Bernie Bickerstaff was mulling a similar fate with the Denver Nuggets and John Lucas was likely coaching his last game for the 76ers.
M.L. Carr removed any doubt over his status, announcing he’ll return for at least another year as coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics.
At least Butch Beard didn’t have to coach his probable last game for New Jersey. The Nets were one of only three teams to have the day off.
Elsewhere, Orlando beat Charlotte 103-100, Indiana edged Cleveland 89-88, Houston downed Phoenix 118-110, Dallas took San Antonio 103-98, Vancouver defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 108-101, Sacramento beat Golden State 107-100 and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Portland 92-88.
Nuggets 99, Sonics 88
At Denver, the fight between Kemp and Hammonds overshadowed the final score.
``I saw two guys get tied up and (they) tried to separate with their arms and elbows,″ Seattle coach George Karl said. ``They just got tangled up.″
``I don’t know if it was a fight or not,″ Bickerstaff said. ``It’s different out there and a lot of emotions were running high out there. It’s a lot like the (Nick) Van Exel situation. He’s a class guy that lost his cool quickly. I hope Kemp doesn’t get anything (a suspension) for Seattle’s sake.″
It was Denver’s first win over Seattle since Dec. 25, 1994. The Nuggets finished 35-47 for their worst record since going 24-58 in 1991-92.
Bulls 103, Bullets 93
At Landover, Md., Michael Jordan scored 26 points despite sitting out the second and fourth quarters as coach Phil Jackson went deep into his bench to keep his regulars rested for the playoffs. The Bulls finished a record year at 72-10.
``We hope 72 will be on the books for a long time, but if someone breaks the record they deserve it, too,″ Jackson said. ``It’s a nice number, 72-10. It rings well.″
Knicks 122, Celtics 111
At Boston, Patrick Ewing had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who finished 47-35 for their fewest wins in five years.
New York was 1-3 against Cleveland, its first-round playoff opponent.
``Them winning the last three games against us in the regular season is fool’s gold,″ said Anthony Mason, who scored 25. ``People aren’t expecting things from us in the playoffs, but it’s going to be like Gomer Pyle says, `Surprise, Surprise.‴
Hawks 104, Heat 92
At Miami, coach Pat Riley rested his regulars and let Atlanta clinch the sixth seed easily.
Stacy Augmon scored 23 points and Steve Smith added 22. Miami’s 42-40 record tied the team record for victories set in 1993-94.
Pistons 108, Bucks 92
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Grant Hill narrowly missed a triple-double, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Otis Thorpe and Joe Dumars scored 19 points each.
The Pistons finished 46-36, an 18-game improvement over last season.
Magic 103, Hornets 100
At Charlotte, N.C., the Magic came back from a 23-point deficit as Anfernee Hardaway scored 12 of his 19 points in the final 4:33.
Orlando finished the regular season with 60 victories, three more than its previous franchise record.
Pacers 89, Cavaliers 88
At Indianapolis, Travis Best’s 3-point shot with 8.8 seconds to play gave Indiana the victory. The Pacers won eight of their last nine.
Rockets 118, Suns 110
At Houston, Hakeem Olajuwon set an NBA mark for career blocks, Sam Mack scored 26 points and Houston hit 16 of 30 3-pointers.
Mavericks 103, Spurs 98
At San Antonio, the Mavericks prevented the Spurs from winning 60 games as Jim Jackson scored 35 points and Jason Kidd had his ninth triple-double of the season.
Grizzlies 108, Clippers 101
At Los Angeles, the Grizzlies had their second two-game winning streak of the year. Vancouver won its first two games and its last two, but had losing streaks of 19 and 23 games in between.
Kings 107, Warriors 100
At Sacramento, the Kings were at home for the first time since clinching the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and fans carried signs proclaiming ``We’re Finally In″ and ``YES!″ Sacramento went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter, holding the Warriors scoreless for 5:33.
Lakers 92, Trail Blazers 88
At Portland, the Lakers scored just seven points in the final 8:42 but still held on for their sixth victory in seven games to snap Portland’s 11-game home winning streak.