Back-to-back games in the NBA are similar to baseball doubleheaders in that a sweep is difficult.
The Detroit Pistons seemed due for a split with the Atlanta Hawks until Isiah Thomas took control with eight minutes left to lead them to a 100-91 victory Wednesday night at Auburn Hills, Mich.
The Pistons had ended a five-game losing streak with a victory at Atlanta Tuesday night, but had fallen behind, 87-79, with 8:10 left.
Thomas, who scored 15 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, scored nine points in a row in two minutes and suddenly Detroit was in the lead.
With the score tied, 90-90, and two minutes left, Thomas went on another spree to wrap it up. First, he drove the lane and was fouled hard by Kevin Willis. Thomas bounced up and retaliated. Willis was charged with a flagrant foul and Thomas got a technical foul.
Dominique Wilkins missed for the Hawks, but Thomas made both of his, then made a jump shot on the ensuing possession to give the Pistons a 94-90 lead. The two victories in 24 hours give the Pistons a 7-8 record, but Thomas has the offense on the move.
In the two games, Thomas scored 43 points and had 25 assists.
"Isiah came up big time at the end of the game," Coach Chuck Daly of the Pistons said. "He got very emotional, and helped us win."
The night before, Daly said that Thomas was responsible for bringing the offense out of the slump.
"I was really down on myself at halftime tonight," Thomas said. "If I had a bat, I would have been hitting myself in the head."
Cleveland 107, Philadelphia 97--With this victory at Richfield, Ohio, the Cavaliers also swept back-to-back games.
Charles Barkley, the heart of the 76ers, sat out the game and probably should have missed the game at Philadelphia Tuesday night.
Barkley has strained rib muscles. He wore a flak jacket in the opener of the series but was obviously hampered by the injury. In 33 minutes he had only 11 points and seven rebounds.
With their best player and rebounder out, the 76ers couldn't handle the bigger Cavaliers, especially Brad Daugherty.
The seven-footer scored 31 points for the second game in a row, but he wanted to talk about the shot-blocking of the other two members of the Cavaliers' front line, Larry Nance and Hot Rod Williams. The Cavaliers blocked 17 shots. Nance had eight and Williams six.
"Larry and Hot Rod are such tremendous shot blockers and defensive players," said Daugherty, an original draft choice of the 76ers. "I'm not the defensive player they are , but it's kind of contagious when they do that."
Boston 101, Orlando 92--Larry Bird scored 10 of his season-high 32 points during a third-quarter rally at Boston that enabled the Celtics to take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
A rally by the Magic had overcome an eight-point deficit and given it a 54-51 lead early in the third quarter. That's when Bird went to work. While the Magic turned cold, getting only five points in the last nine minutes of the quarter, Bird doubled the total. He led a 23-5 run that broke it open.
Minnesota 101, Denver 92--The Timberwolves, who began the season with one victory in 10 games, won their second in a row at Minneapolis.
Sam Mitchell and Gerald Glass each had 22 points for the Timberwolves. They helped overcome the play of rookie Dikembe Mutombo, who had 23 points and 17 rebounds for the Nuggets.
Dallas 113, Indiana 106--It is an accomplishment these days when the Mavericks win at home.
Rodney McCray scored 20 points, including a 20-foot jumper with 53 seconds left that evened the Mavericks' home-court record at 4-4.
Phoenix 141, Sacramento 100--The Suns showed the Kings how difficult it is to win back-to-back games.
After losing to the Kings Tuesday night at Sacramento, the Suns came out firing at Phoenix.
The Suns turned it into a rout in the first quarter. By halftime, they had a 71-41 lead. They scored as many points in the second quarter as the Kings scored in the first half.
Utah 113, Charlotte 107--The Jazz expected a breeze against the Hornets at Salt Lake City, but they needed outstanding performances from Karl and Jeff Malone.
The Hornets led, 102-97, with 6:09 to play. But Jeff Malone scored eight of his 26 points in a 16-5 run that carried the Jazz to victory.
Karl Malone, who scored 31 points, scored on a dunk with 3:20 left to give Utah the lead for good and Jeff Malone followed with three more baskets.
San Antonio 106, New Jersey 100--After taking a 13-4 lead in the first four minutes at San Antonio, the Spurs thought it would be a breeze.
Instead, the Nets fought back to take a 78-72 lead going into the final quarter.
But the Spurs stopped turning the ball over and David Robinson, who finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds, took control.
The win, which came despite 27 turnovers, gave the Spurs a 7-0 record at home. They have an 8-3 record and trail Houston by half a game in the Midwest Division.