The NBA's first regular-season game in Mexico was a success for the league--and the Houston Rockets.
Charles Barkley had 19 points and 17 rebounds as the Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks, 108-106, Saturday night before a sellout crowd of of 20,635 at the Sports Palace in Mexico City.
The game was sold out two days in advance and scalpers were selling $11 tickets for $37.50--11 days' work at minimum wage.
The Mavericks officially were the home team, but the crowd rooted for the Rockets. Fans stood and cheered every time Houston scored. They whistled every time Dallas attempted a free throw.
"I'm here to see Barkley," said Fabiola Rivera, a 23-year-old elementary school teacher. "I've been a fan of his for the last 10 years."
Michael Finley scored a career-high 35 points for Dallas, which was playing its second game under Coach Don Nelson, who took over Wednesday after Jim Cleamons was fired.
Finley's three-point shot with 8.5 seconds left cut Houston's lead to 107-103 and then Finley, fouled while attempting a three-pointer, made all three free throws to make it 107-106. Mario Elie's free throw with 3.1 seconds left accounted for the final margin.
New York 90, Charlotte 79--Coming off their debacle in Dallas, the Knicks decided to get serious at New York and they rolled to their sixth consecutive home victory as John Starks scored 27 points.
The victory improved the Knicks' record to 11-7 and left them squarely in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference despite their home winning streak.
The Knicks have had some ugly road losses--at Sacramento, Detroit and the 14-point defeat at Dallas Thursday night.
The Knicks overcame 24 turnovers by holding the Hornets to 35% shooting that included a three-for-13 performance by Glen Rice and a four-for-15 outing by David Wesley.
Washington 114, Minnesota 103--Chris Webber had 33 points and 12 rebounds as the Wizards remained perfect in their new home.
Juan Howard added 26 points for the Wizards, who are 3-0 at the MCI Center after opening the season 0-5 in their old building, the USAir Arena.
Tom Gugliotta, who missed part of the third quarter after getting an accidental elbow under his left eye from Webber, finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Arn Tellem, the agent for Latrell Sprewell, called the contract termination and one-year suspension of his client unreasonable and promised to fight it. "The NBA is a monopoly that's denying him his ability to work for a year," Tellem said. "That's outrageous. In other industries, he'd at least have a chance to get a job in a similar field." Tellem said Sprewell will talk later about the suspension handed down by the NBA after the Golden State guard got into an altercation with Warrior Coach P.J. Carlesimo.