PHOENIX — All-Star forward Charles Barkley, who maintains that he's retiring after this season, will have to work at least one more game.
On the verge of being eliminated from the NBA playoffs after losing three games in a row to Houston, the Phoenix Suns stayed alive by beating the Rockets, 103-89, Thursday night in the sixth game of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Barkley had 18 points and 15 rebounds and guard Kevin Johnson had 28 points and 13 assists as the Suns tied the series, 3-3. Game 7 will be played Saturday at Houston, where the Suns won the first two games of the series.
Barkley said he felt no pressure.
"I told the guys I was going to Houston tomorrow, or I was going to Vegas," Barkley said. "I was going to have a good weekend (regardless).
"I think this is the best game we've played so far. In Games 3 and 4 I didn't play well."
Said Coach Paul Westphal: "I've got a lot of confidence. We all thought at the start of the series it would go seven, and it's been a crazy road to get there."
Forward A.C. Green, who started his first playoff game of the season, had 22 points and 10 rebounds, including 12 points in the third quarter.
"A.C. was phenomenal," Westphal said.
The Suns did a good job of defending center Hakeem Olajuwon, who had 23 points but made only nine of 21 shots.
Phoenix, on the verge of becoming the first team since the 1969 Lakers and only the second team in NBA playoff history to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first two games on the road, led, 76-66, going into the fourth quarter.
Although they were one loss away from starting their summer vacation, the Suns are used to living life on the edge.
During their drive to the 1993 NBA Western Conference title, the Suns faced elimination six times and were 5-1 in those games.
With the Suns about to set Thursday, Westphal shuffled his lineup, inserting Green in place of Cedric Ceballos and center Oliver Miller for Mark West, who shot only 33.3% in the first five games of the series.
But it was reserve center Joe Klein who energized the Suns, who led, 50-47, at halftime.
Klein, who averaged only 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds during the regular season, had eight points and two rebounds in the first half.
Klein also harassed Olajuwon, who made only five of 13 shots in the first half as the Rockets shot 36.4%. Olajuwon missed four of five shots in the second quarter.
Barkley, who imposed a gag order on the Suns before the game, let his game do the talking, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the first half.
The Suns, who shot 33.3% in the first quarter, shot 53% in the second, making nine of 17 shots and outscoring Houston, 30-25.