Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rockets Eliminate Lakers, Face Challenge against Supersonics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rockets Eliminate Lakers, Face Challenge against Supersonics

Article excerpt

The Houston Rockets love challenges, so the two-time defending National Basketball Association champions should be thrilled with their next opponent in the playoffs.

The Rockets, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-94 Thursday night to win their opening-round series 3-1, will play Seattle in the second round.

The SuperSonics, who defeated Sacramento 101-87 to win that series 3-1, have beaten the Rockets nine successive times and were the last team to oust Houston from the playoffs - three years ago in the Western Conference semifinals.

Their best-of-seven series opens Saturday in Seattle. But before the Sonics start focusing on the Rockets, they're going to savor their victory over the Kings, which ended two years of first-round playoff failure.

"I am so thrilled that we've gotten past the first round, it's relief and elation combined," Seattle forward Sam Perkins said. "It took two years to climb over this. Now that we're near the top, we can see some daylight."

Also Thursday night, Indiana beat Atlanta 83-75 to force a fifth and deciding game Sunday in Indianapolis.

In other games Sunday, it's Portland at Utah in the deciding game of a first-round series, and New York at Chicago in the opener of a second-round matchup. The Bulls and Knicks swept their first-round series.

The Atlanta-Indiana winner will advance against Orlando, which swept Detroit in the opening round.

Gary Payton scored 29 points and Shawn Kemp 23 as the Sonics advanced to the second round for the first time since 1993.

They won two in a row in Sacramento after splitting the first two in Seattle.

"It's more of a sense of relief," said Kemp, who also had eight rebounds, six steals and three blocks. "Now we can relax and play our style of basketball. We don't have to worry about the first-round exit."

The Kings, the only team in the playoffs with a losing regular-season record, lost leading scorer Mitch Richmond with a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. …

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