It would be hard enough for the Utah Jazz to beat the streaking Houston Rockets at full strength.
But without Karl Malone, forget it.
Malone was ejected from Saturday night's game in Houston with 9:15 left to play for cursing at official Jack Madden after a foul was called on Utah's Larry Krystkowiak.
The Jazz was ahead by a point at the time, but the Rockets immediately took the lead and went on to take the win, 104-95, for their 13th consecutive victory and 26th in their last 31 games.
As usual, when the Rockets are hot, so is their dominating center, Hakeem Olajuwon. He had 38 points and 14 rebounds, including 17 points in the final period.
"I feel that I hurt the team by making the comment," said Malone, who finished with 15 points. "I don't care about what the ref did, I shouldn't have said anything. I let the team down."
Jeff Malone led Utah with 26 points. NBA assist leader John Stockton was held to a season-low five assists.
New Jersey 124, Phoenix 93--Drazen Petrovic scored 29 points at Phoenix as the Nets handed the Suns their worst loss of the season.
New Jersey won its fifth in a row and ended Phoenix's six-game winning streak. It was only the Suns' third defeat in 29 home games this season.
Kevin Johnson led Phoenix with 23 points. Charles Barkley was held to 15.
The Nets moved 11 games above .500 for the first time since the 1983-84 season and are four victories shy their total for last season.
Phoenix, the league's most active and second-most accurate team from beyond the three-point line, was 0 for 9 on three-pointers.
San Antonio 108, Portland 99--Antoine Carr scored a season-high 27 points and David Robinson had 19 rebounds at San Antonio.
Sean Elliott scored 24 points and Robinson added 23 for the Spurs, who have won 17 of their last 18 home games.
Cliff Robinson scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough for the Trail Blazers, who have lost seven of their last 13 games.
Miami 106, Seattle 102--Grant Long scored 23 points in the Heat's 10th consecutive home victory.
Miami has won 10 of its last 12 games.
Sacramento 122, Dallas 94--Lionel Simmons scored 24 points and Walt Williams added 20 at Sacramento, extending the Mavericks' franchise-record losing streak to 18 games.
Dallas remains the only winless team on the road at 0-29.