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NBA Roundup : Houston's 2 Towers Begin to Cast Big Shadows

December 30, 1987

When they won only one of the first five games they played after breaking up the Twin Towers, the Houston Rockets took considerable heat.

The trade that sent 7-foot 4-inch Ralph Sampson to the Golden State Warriors for Joe Barry Carroll and Sleepy Floyd was ridiculed as one of the worst in National Basketball Assn. history. The idea was a team should never trade a talented giant.

A new version of the Twin Towers may silence some of the criticism.

After falling 11 points behind the Detroit Pistons in the first half at Pontiac, Mich., Tuesday night, the Rockets put the 7-1 Carroll and the 7-0 Akeem Olajuwon on the court together to open the third quarter.

It succeeded. The Rockets, with the two giants dominating both ends of the court, scored the first 16 points of the second half and went on to end Detroit's 10-game winning streak with a 101-91 victory.

Carroll, who scored a Rocket-high 25 points, and Olajuwon each scored 10 points in the third quarter to provide the impetus for the Rockets to end a six-game road losing streak.

Olajuwon, in foul trouble early, had only two points at halftime, but finished with 15 and 14 rebounds. Carroll, who came off the bench to play 36 minutes, had 13 rebounds.

"Everyone wants to meet a challenge when they come to a new team," Carroll said. "This is my first trade. I imagine it takes time for everyone to get acclimated with each other."

The absence of injured Piston big man Rick Mahorn is one of the reasons Coach Bill Fitch went to the new Twin Towers.

"After the trade, we needed to get to know each other," Fitch said. "It has helped that we have had some days off in which we could work on getting acquainted. I think we will start to show some consistency. I like the team we have now.

"This is the first time they've started a half together. I've said all along that I think they can play together as well as Ralph and Akeem did. He (Carroll) can shoot it."

Mahorn has back spasms. Isiah Thomas, who missed the previous game, played, but appeared to be having trouble moving and shooting. He was only 4 for 14, contributing to the Pistons' poor 39.3% shooting.

Atlanta 108, Chicago 98--Michael Jordan finally emerged from his slump in the second half at Chicago, but his teammates didn't and the Bulls lost for the ninth time in 12 games.

Jordan's shooting slump continued in the first half when he was only 4 for 13 and the Bulls fell behind by 16 points. But, in the second half, he was 12 for 24, scored 39 points and hit a jumper with 2:02 remaining to put the Bulls just four points behind. They couldn't get any closer.

Glenn Rivers had a spectacular game to put the Hawks, winners of eight of their last nine, into first place in the Central Division. Rivers had a triple-double: 29 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

Jordan, who was 11 for 37 from the field in the two previous games, outscored Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins, 39-26.

New York 123, Portland 110--The Trail Blazers appear capable of giving the Lakers all they can handle in the West. But in the East, they are just another team.

After losing by 10 at Detroit, 8 at Philadelphia and 13 at Milwaukee on a swing early in December, they are 0-2 on this trip.

After losing by three at Cleveland Saturday night, they let the Knicks end a nine-game losing streak at New York.

Kenny Walker scored a season-high 25 points and Gerald Wilkins scored 6 of his 22 in a 12-0 spurt that came after the Blazers cut the lead to 107-102 with 5:12 left.

Milwaukee 106, New Jersey 88--Terry Cummings had 21 points and Randy Breuer had 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Bucks won at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Nets lost more than just another game. Dwayne (Pearl) Washington, who led them to two victories in a row, sprained his ankle just three minutes into the game and had to be helped off the floor.

Cummings scored 10 points in the first quarter to help the Bucks take a 28-19 lead. By halftime it was 54-37, and the Bucks were clearing the bench.

Dallas 126, Sacramento 117--Mark Aguirre scored 24 of his 31 points in the first half at Dallas to help the Mavericks build a 69-52 halftime lead.

When the Kings rallied to cut the lead to 95-91 early in the final quarter, Derek Harper and Roy Tarpley sparked a 14-2 Dallas run that broke it open.

With Denver losing, the Mavericks increased their lead in the Midwest to two games with a 17-8 record.

Utah 98, Denver 97--Karl Malone scored 37 points to lead the Jazz to just its third victory in 14 road games.

It was a close game most of the way. The Nuggets had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Mike Evans put up an air ball and Malone grabbed his 13th rebound.

Malone's two free throws with 42 seconds left had given the Jazz the 98-97 lead.

--DAN HAFNER

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