Most professional basketball people believe that if any team in the West is capable of ousting the Lakers from the playoffs, it is the Houston Rockets.
Last Tuesday, the Rockets walloped the Boston Celtics and the Celtics were impressed with the Rockets chances against the Lakers.
But, consistency is something the Rockets have not developed since Coach Bill Fitch revamped his team by sending Ralph Sampson to Golden State and adding playmaker Sleepy Floyd and talented big man Joe Barry Carroll.
Two nights after thumping the Celtics, the Rockets were beaten by Seattle.
The good Rocket team showed up Sunday night at Portland. Although Akeem Olajuwon had a cold shooting night and was in early foul trouble, he sparked a fourth quarter rally that carried the Rockets to a 115-103 victory over the Trail Blazers.
Olajuwon, who picked up three personal fouls in one minute in the third quarter, came off the bench with 7:24 left to hit three consecutive jumpers to put Houston ahead to stay, 101-96.
Except for the three in a row in the clutch, Olajuwon was only 6 for 21.
The victory was significant because it came on the road. The Rockets are only 11-14 on the road, but it was only Portland's fifth loss at home in 26 games.
"If I were the Lakers, I would be concerned," Boston center Robert Parish said. "The Rockets can be as good as they want to be."
New Jersey 109, Philadelphia 105--Charles Barkley was off to his usual brilliant start at East Rutherford, N.J., so when he picked up his second technical--automatic ejection--halfway through the second quarter, the Nets breathed a sigh of relief.
Although Barkley had already scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds before he was dismissed, the Nets held a 46-38 lead. Without Barkley, the Nets figured it would be easy.
Instead, the 76ers played an inspired third quarter and went into the final quarter leading by 16 points.
A cold spell (1 for 10) and eight turnovers cost the 76ers dearly, Buck Williams led a spirited rally and the Nets pulled it out.
Barkley received his first technical when he argued with referee Jess Kersey early in the second period. A few minutes later, the Nets' John Bagley tried to knock the ball out of Barkley's hands on a rebound. Barkley came down throwing an elbow. Referee Bob Delaney called the technical and Barkley was gone.
"I don't think they should have thrown me out for what I did," Barkley said. "But that's part of the game. The ref made a bad call. The elbow didn't touch Bagley."
Williams finished the game with 21 points and 26 rebounds. Bagley had 26 points and six assists.
Denver 107, Utah 93--Blair Rasmussen, who became a father for the first time Sunday, scored 14 of his 20 points in the second quarter and helped the Nuggets defeat the Jazz at Denver.
Denver also got 25 points from Alex English and 16 from Danny Schayes, but it was Rasmussen's outburst in the second period that put the Nuggets in command of the game. Rasmussen made six of nine shots and matched the 14-point explosion in the quarter by the Jazz's Karl Malone.
Thanks to Rasmussen, Denver held a 55-47 lead at halftime and kept Utah at bay the test of the way despite Malone's 31 points.