'It's hard to get the clinching game.'– Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson, after tying the series with the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs.

Teams' playoff hopes alive

The first round of the NBA playoffs is about to finish with a flurry of Game 5s after the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Allen Iverson, and the Seattle SuperSonics, behind Gary Payton, kept their seasons alive Wednesday night with must-win victories in Game 4 of their series.

The 76ers defeated the Celtics 83-81, forcing the series back to Boston for the deciding game tonight. The Sonics downed the Spurs 91-79, sending that series back to San Antonio for its deciding game tonight.

Another pair of Game 5s were played last night: Indiana at New Jersey and Toronto at Detroit.

"This is what playoff basketball is all about," says Boston's Paul Pierce. "Nobody said it was going to be easy when we got here...."

A flurry of firings

Bullpen coach John Mizerock was promoted to interim manager Tuesday by the Kansas City Royals, whose firing of Tony Muser raised the total to a record four managers dismissed in just the first month of the major league baseball season.

"They need a change," Muser said. "It's just a part of this business."

Since 1900, there had never been more than two managers fired in the season's first month, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Phil Garner was let go by Detroit April 9, Milwaukee fired Davey Lopes April 18, and Colorado fired Buddy Bell last Friday. All four teams had seen large drops in attendance. Boston fired Joe Kerrigan in spring training.

Yao wows 'em in chicago

The 7-ft.-5 in. Yao Ming arrived in a black stretch limousine outside Loyola University's Alumni Gym in Chicago Wednesday. Inside, 65 NBA scouts, coaches, and team officials were waiting. "For a guy this size, he can shoot the ball. He has a wonderful feel for the game," said Jerry West, the new president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Yao, who turns 22 in September, is viewed as the best player in China. He could be the top overall pick in the June 26 NBA draft.

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