Elbows, Zeroes and Boos
Old enemies, new rivalries and trade fallout were just three of the themes on a busy day in the NBA.
The Suns and Knicks had another violent exchange, the Bulls put down the Magic’s challenge to their perfect home record and several players who were traded last Thursday _ and one who wasn’t _ began new stages of their careers.
The Phoenix-New York problem began Sunday after an elbow from J.R. Reid knocked out two of A.C. Green’s teeth and threatened his consecutive game streak in the Suns’ 113-105 victory.
The Chicago-Orlando matchup of two teams with no homecourt losses turned into a fourth-quarter rout by the Bulls in a 111-91 victory.
In Minneapolis, Christian Laettner was lambasted by his former fans and had a foul-plagued game as his new team, the Atlanta Hawks, beat the Timberwolves 92-76.
The three newest members of the Heat got warm welcomes in Miami as they all played well in a 108-101 victory over Philadelphia.
And in Portland, home to the league’s most tumultuous team, Rod Strickland stayed away once again as the Blazers lost to Detroit 93-81.
In other games, Seattle beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-101, New Jersey defeated Boston 111-105, San Antonio downed Vancouver 95-84, Dallas beat Toronto 111-103 and Washington got past Milwaukee 111-103.
Suns 113, Knicks 105
At Phoenix, two teams that engaged in an ugly brawl three seasons ago had another violent episode.
Green took an elbow from Reid under the basket and two of Green’s teeth were knocked out. He calmly walked into the 3-second lane, picked up his teeth and walked off to get medical help. The Suns were livid after the game.
``There’s no need for stuff like that,″ said Kevin Johnson, who fought with Doc Rivers and Greg Anthony in a wild bench-clearing brawl three seasons ago. ``A man loses his permanent teeth? A guy should be fined 10 games for something like that.″
Reid, who had season-highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds, denied it was intentional.
``He’s a Bible-thumping brother. Why would I hit him?″ Reid said.
Green did not accompany the team to Utah, but hoped to join them by tipoff tonight after having dental surgery. He has played in 784 consecutive games, third-most in NBA history.
Charles Barkley led Phoenix with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Johnson added 24 points.
Bulls 111, Magic 91
Chicago improved its home record to 25-0 as Toni Kukoc scored his team’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter to break the game open.
The Bulls and Magic are both undefeated at home this season, and this was considered both a playoff preview and a chance for Orlando to ruin Chicago’s perfect record at the United Center.
``We knew what the game meant from a mental aspect. We were ready,″ Michael Jordan said.
Shaquille O’Neal scored 33 points to 23 for Jordan in their first appearance together since Jordan won the MVP award that many felt O’Neal deserved at the All-Star game two weeks earlier.
Hawks 92, Timberwolves 76
Laettner was booed when he entered the game and grinned at the greeting after 3 1/2 turbulent seasons in Minnesota.
``I expected 100 percent cheers, and I didn’t get that and I started crying on the court,″ Laettner said in a typically sarcastic response.
Laettner had just seven points and seven rebounds, most of them after the Hawks had taken control of the game in the third quarter. Grant Long led Atlanta with a season-high 24 points.
Heat 111, 76ers 105
Tim Hardaway had 20 points and nine rebounds, Walt Williams hit three of his four 3-pointers in a game-breaking run and Chris Gatling had 10 points and 10 rebounds in just 15 minutes as the three newest members of the Heat debuted for their new team.
``He was simply superb tonight,″ Heat coach Pat Riley, who masterminded Thursday’s team overhaul, said of Hardaway. ``He sees the floor really well and he came in and got us going.″
Pistons 93, Trail Blazers 81
Strickland stayed away from the team he vowed never to return to, and his teammates returned to their losing ways.
Terry Mills put Detroit ahead for good with a 3-point basket and the Pistons scored the game’s final 13 points to sent Portland to its sixth home loss in its last seven games.
Strickland, feuding with coach P.J. Carlesimo, has been suspended indefinitely.
SuperSonics 106, Clippers 101
At Los Angeles, the SuperSonics won their 10th in a row and sent the Clippers to their fourth straight loss and their 13th in 14 games.
Sam Perkins scored 13 of his season-high 22 points in the third quarter when Shawn Kemp was in foul trouble, and Seattle took advantage of the Clippers’ 20 missed free throws in 42 attempts.
Kemp fouled out with six minutes remaining but had 21 points and 17 rebounds. Loy Vaught, the Clippers’ leading scorer and rebounder, had food poisoning and missed his first game of the season.
Nets 111, Celtics 105
At East Rutherford, N.J., the Nets came back after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, scoring the game’s final six points from the free throw line to win for the sixth time in seven games since the All-Star break.
Spurs 95, Grizzlies 84
At Vancouver, David Robinson scored nine of his 20 points in the last quarter and Sean Elliott had a team-high 29 points for the Midwest Division co-leaders. The Grizzlies lost their fourth straight despite 22 points and 10 rebounds from rookie center Bryant Reeves.
Mavericks 105, Raptors 98
At Dallas, Jim Jackson scored 24 points and George McCloud 22 as the Mavericks improved their record to 17-1 against first-year expansion teams. Jason Kidd added 20 points, Lorenzo Williams pulled down 20 rebounds and Tony Dumas came off the bench for 15 points.
Bullets 111, Bucks 103
At Landover, Md., Juwan Howard had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Washington snapped a three-game losing streak by overcoming Vin Baker’s 35 points and career-high 21 rebounds.