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Rockets 86, Pacers 81

March 26, 1998

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Kevin Willis scored 22 points and Hakeem Olajuwon added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Houston Rockets held off a late Indiana rally to beat the Pacers 86-81 Wednesday night.

Houston won despite not having Charles Barkley (shoulder) and Clyde Drexler (groin) for the second straight game.

The Rockets, who led 80-70 with 3:22 left, survived an 11-2 Indiana run that cut the Rockets’ lead to 82-81 with 50 seconds to play.

Olajuwon answered with a 10-footer to make it 84-81, and Mark Jackson and Reggie Miller missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds. Matt Maloney then made two free throws to complete the scoring.

It was the eighth home loss of the season for the Pacers, whose home record is second-best in the East behind Chicago’s.

Miller started the Pacers’ late spurt, hitting a 3-pointer with 2:55 left after making just two of his first 11 shots.

With Houston ahead 82-78, Maloney fouled Jackson going for a steal. Maloney slammed the ball to the floor, getting called for a technical foul.

Chris Millin hit the technical foul shot and Jackson added two more from Maloney’s foul.

The Rockets trailed by as many as six points in first half, hitting just 38 percent of their shots. Houston regained its touch midway through the third quarter, and it coincided with Rik Smits picking up his fourth foul with 6:55 left.

A 3-point play by Willis on the Smits foul started the streak which put the Rockets ahead to stay. He finished the run with a baby hook that gave Houston a 60-51 lead with 3:21 remaining.

Matt Bullard added five of his 12 points in the run, including one of his two 3-pointers.

Mullin’s 12 points led Indiana in the first half, but he didn’t score again until hitting the 3-pointer in the closing moments.

The Pacers tied a season low by shooting just 34 percent (26-of-77) from the field. Miller and Mullin led the Pacers with 16 points apiece.

Notes: Indiana was hoping to sweep the season series from Houston for the first time since the 1979-80 season. The Pacers beat the Rockets 87-80 on Jan. 8 in Houston. ... This was the start of a five-game homestand for Indiana, its longest of the year. ... It was just the second time this year Houston used a starting lineup of Willis, Bullard, Olajuwon, Maloney and Mario Elie. The Rockets are 1-1 with that lineup. ... Referee Ronnie Nunn whistled Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich for a technical foul with 32.4 seconds left in the second quarter after Tomjanovich was upset that Dale Davis was not called for going over Willis’ back on a dunk. His assistants pulled him back to the bench by the back of his jacket.

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