Dennis Rodman found himself ignored on the San Antonio bench, which apparently earned Coach John Lucas some respect and didn't slow the Spurs in a 109-98 victory at Houston that put them back in first place in the NBA Central.
Rodman's absence from the floor might have saved the officials some problems.
He had been ejected from two consecutive games--including one Friday at San Antonio--because of technical fouls, then missed the plane to Houston for the Saturday game.
He arrived just before game time, only to be told by Lucas that he would not be playing.
Rodman said when Lucas told him he was being benched, he told the coach: "If you do that, you better stick to that if I'm going to respect you."
Lucas did, even though Rodman tried to get into the game in the third quarter, holding up a towel on which he had scribbled with a marker in big letters: "I'm sorry. Can I play! Please."
Lucas said he did not see the towel and laughed about it.
"You can't help but love him," he said of Rodman.
"I just missed the plane, that's all," Rodman said. "I took another plane. But we have no problem. This team showed tonight that anybody could step up. They have a lot of character. There'll be no problem with Lucas. I'll still be the same person."
The Spurs got 40 points and 16 rebounds from David Robinson and 23 points from Negele Knight in the victory.
The loss was Houston's fourth in seven games. Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets with 27 points and 18 rebounds but played much of the game in foul trouble. Vernon Maxwell added 23 for the Rockets.
The game was marked by five technical fouls--three against Houston and two against the Spurs. Lucas also complained to game officials that the Rockets' Maxwell, who picked up one of the technicals, had spit at least twice at the Spur bench in the early going.
New Jersey 117, Charlotte 92--Derrick Coleman scored 20 points and the Nets opened some more distance between themselves and the Hornets for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot at East Rutherford, N.J.
Larry Johnson, who returned to the Hornets' lineup Friday night after missing 31 games because of a back injury, had eight points in 16 minutes, playing only in the first half.
New York 96, Cleveland 86--The Knicks held their opponent below 90 points for the sixth consecutive game, a team record in the shot-clock era, and got 29 points from Patrick Ewing in beating the Cavaliers, who were without starters Brad Daugherty and Mark Price, at New York.
Chicago 111, Sacramento 94--Scottie Pippen scored 20 points and the Bulls used a 15-4 run to start the fourth quarter in beating the Kings at Chicago.
The Bulls capped their decisive fourth-quarter run at 7:14 when the Kings were called for consecutive technical fouls on Randy Brown, Coach Garry St. Jean and Lionel Simmons.
Indiana 104, Milwaukee 97--Reggie Miller scored 23 points and became the fourth player in NBA history to hit 800 three-pointers as the Pacers won at home.
Atlanta 104, Detroit 92--Danny Manning scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half as the Hawks won at Auburn Hills, Mich., and prevented the Pistons from winning three in a row for the first time since Nov. 17-21.