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NBA PLAYOFFS

It Gets Worse for Rockets

Pro basketball: SuperSonics hold off late charge after leading by as many as 22 and win, 99-96, to force seventh game.

May 16, 1997|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Seattle SuperSonics like this brinkmanship business.

Facing elimination for the fourth time in the playoffs, the SuperSonics beat the Houston Rockets, 99-96, Thursday night to force a seventh and deciding game in their Western Conference semifinal series.

After the Rockets cut the SuperSonics' 22-point lead to two on Clyde Drexler's three-point shot with 31 seconds left, Gary Payton made a spinning left-handed hook for Seattle with 12.1 seconds remaining and the SuperSonics held on for the victory.

Payton finished with 19 points, 13 assists and five steals for Seattle, which will play Game 7 on Saturday at Houston. The winner will go to the conference finals against the Utah Jazz.

"Now we're going back to their territory," said Shawn Kemp, who led the SuperSonics with 22 points and 11 rebounds. "It's going to be a dogfight, so we're going to eat our puppy chow."

Payton's basket, which gave Seattle a 97-93 lead, was the SuperSonics' first field goal in nearly eight minutes. Drexler missed a three-point attempt with seven seconds left and Hersey Hawkins made two clinching free throws for the SuperSonics with 5.8 seconds remaining.

Houston's Sedale Threatt sank a three-point basket with four-tenths of a second left for the final margin.

Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets with 30 points and 11 rebounds, including 16 points to key the fourth-quarter comeback.

Seattle is trying to become only the sixth NBA team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing, 3-1. The last team to do it was Houston, which came back against Phoenix in the 1995 Western Conference finals and went on to win the NBA championship.

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