Day 20 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Houston Rockets. The Rockets franchise has two NBA title, and has 12 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: June 22, 1994
Situation: The No. 2 Houston Rockets and the No. 2 New York Knicks are tied, 3-3, heading to Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Context: The Rockets opened up the season 15-0, lost to the Hawks, then reeled off another seven straight and never looked back, finishing a franchise-best 58-24. Hakeem Olajuwon led the charge, averaging 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game on his way to an MVP award. Houston eliminated the Blazers, 3-1, in the opening round, bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Suns in seven in the Western semis, then advanced to the franchise’s third NBA Finals with a 4-1 win over the Jazz in the Western finals. Opposite Houston was a team not named the Bulls representing the East for the first time in four years; with Michael Jordan playing minor league baseball, the Knicks went 60-22 and made the Finals. The gritty Knicks stole home court advantage with a Game 2 win, and took a 3-2 series lead back to Houston for Game 6. Olajuwon came up huge in the elimination game, scoring 30 points while holding Patrick Ewing to 6-for-20 from the field, forcing the first NBA Finals Game 7 since 1988.
Recap: The decisive game was as much about what the Rockets did, as it was about what John Starks didn’t do. The Knicks’ starting shooting guard was impossibly bad from the field; he shot 0-for-11 from three, 2-for-18 overall, and finished with just eight points and two rebounds. On the other end, Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell both scored more than 20 points, pacing a balanced Rockets scoring attack. Starks’ struggles — coupled with his insistence to keep shooting — allowed Houston to squeeze by the Knicks for the franchise’s first title. Houston won, 90-84.
Top players: Hakeem Olajuwon finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, good for his 16th double-double in 23 playoff games. Vernon Maxwell added 21 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Kenny Smith (11 points) and Sam Cassell (13) also scored in double figures. Houston finished with just three offensive rebounds. Derek Harper led the Knicks with 23 points and five assists. Patrick Ewing (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Charles Oakley (10 and 14) both had double-doubles. New York shot just 4-for-20 from three.
After the game: Despite finishing just 47-35 the following year, Houston returned to the NBA Finals, and again won, sweeping Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. The Rockets haven’t been back to the Finals since, though, and have made it past the first round of the playoffs just three times.
Check back tomorrow for the Nets.
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