Julius Erving hit a desperation three-point shot at the buzzer yesterday to give the undermanned Philadelphia 76ers a 95-94 victory over the Boston Celtics that ended Boston's 14-game winning streak and the Celtics' chance at tying for the best regular season record in NBA history.
Erving's shot came after Larry Bird, the league's leading foul shooter, missed two free throws with seven seconds left. Bird had made 70 of his last 73 free throws entering the game, then made only three of eight.
Boston's Kevin McHale tied up Charles Barkley but Barkley won the jump and tipped the ball to Erving, whose 25-footer over Danny Ainge made the 76ers the first team to beat the Celtics twice this season.
The score capped Philadelphia's comeback from a 90-79 deficit with 4:38 left. Erving (game-high 23 points) was instrumental throughout the rally, scoring seven straight points to cut the deficit to four.
"Doc has the sense to take over on offense when we need a spark and he did that today," 76ers Coach Matt Guokas said.
After Dennis Johnson made a layup for the Celtics, Erving's two free throws with 1:59 to go cut the Celtics' lead to 92-88.
Johnson made a jumper for Boston, but a three-point play by rookie Terry Catledge and a free throw by Maurice Cheeks with 41 seconds left narrowed Boston's lead to 94-92.
Bird then missed his free throws.
The game was marred by a third-period fight between Ainge and Philadelphia's Sedale Threatt. It started after Threatt was charged with a personal foul for elbowing Ainge. Threatt and Ainge then got into a shoving match, and when Threatt punched Ainge in the jaw, he was charged with a technical and ejected.
Cheeks had 20 points for Philadelphia, which played without two injured players: center Moses Malone and forward/center Bob McAdoo. Johnson scored 22 and Bird 18 for Boston, which had won 22 of its previous 24 games, and last lost at Dallas March 10.
Rockets 109, Lakers 103: Akeem Olajuwon scored 25 points as Houston beat visiting Los Angeles for the first time since Nov. 12, 1980, having lost 14 since. The victory gave Houston a club-record 50 victories.
Nuggets 124, Spurs 106: In San Antonio, Alex English scored 29 points to pace Denver, which shot 58.7 percent from the field. Mike Mitchell scored 33 points for the Spurs, who have lost five straight and 21 of 24.