Originally created 12/20/96

Barkley ejected as Rockets suffer second straight loss



HOUSTON - Charles Barkley poked a referee in the nose and drew blood as he was being ejected from the Houston Rockets' second straight puzzling loss, this one to the San Antonio Spurs.

Barkley and Clyde Drexler were both ejected with 5:47 remaining for drawing their second technical fouls while arguing a call under Houston's basket. Barkley pointed at referee Jack Nies, and his fingertail caused a cut on Nies' nose.

In the meeting of the teams with the NBA's best and worst records, Dominique Wilkins scored 24 points off the bench and David Robinson added 20 for the Spurs, who played their best game of a so-far ugly season.

The Rockets, who lost at Vancouver on Tuesday night, dropped their second in a row for the first time this season and had their eight-game home winning streak snapped.

San Antonio took charge in a sizzling third quarter, connecting on 15 of 19 shots, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range, to go ahead by as many as 17 points.

The Spurs, the averaging 88.6 points per game, third-worst in the NBA, had 85 after three quarters and finished with their highest point total of the season.

Sean Elliott added 16 points and Avery Johnson 15. The victory was the second straight for the Spurs, their second in 10 road games and evened new coach Gregg Popovich's record at 2-2.

Drexler and Matt Maloney led the Rockets with 19 points while Barkley, returning after missing a pair of games because of an ankle sprain, had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Hakeem Olajuwon was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting.

The Spurs, the worst team in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 28.5 percent, were 9-of-17 from behind the arc for 53 percent. Overall, San Antonio shot 56 percent and converted 16 Houston turnovers to 23 points.

Houston held as much as a 13-point first-quarter advantage before the Spurs used a 14-4 run midway through the second period, including a pair of 3-pointers by Wilkins, to grab a 41-39 lead with 3:55 to go in the half.

The Rockets, who bounced back to hold a 51-50 lead at the break, fell behind immediately in the third period when Robinson, rounding into shape after missing the first 18 games because of a lower back strain, hit the first basket. Drexler answered with a 3-pointer to put Houston up by two points, but it was the Rockets' final lead of the game.

Notes: The attendance of 16,285 at The Summit marked the 68th consecutive sellout, breaking a record of 67 set during the 1988-89 season. ... San Antonio's Carl Herrera underwent surgery Thursday to repair a displaced nasal bone fracture suffered in practice the previous day. He is being fitted with a protective mask and could play Saturday when the Spurs meet Phoenix. ... San Antonio has won 12 the last 16 regular season meetings between the two teams.