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[chron]The Imfamous "CHOKE CITY" Articles

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by tinman, Aug 10, 2007.

  1. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
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    http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=1994_1201582
    Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
    Date: THU 05/12/1994
    Section: Sports
    Page: 1
    Edition: 3 STAR

    Suns 124, Rockets 117/CHOKE CITY/Rockets lose 20-point lead in fourth quarter to Suns

    By EDDIE SEFKO
    Staff

    The fans came back. Unfortunately, so did the Phoenix Suns.

    What was supposed to be an all-for-one show of strength turned into one incredible fourth-quarter collapse Wednesday night as the Rockets blew a 20-point lead in the final 10 minutes to lose 124-117 in overtime at The Summit.

    No team has lost a bigger lead in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. It was a gag of the same proportion as the Oilers' 41-38 overtime playoff loss in Buffalo 16 months ago when they led 35-3 early in the third quarter.

    "Everybody feels terrible about this," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "It's a very hard, depressing thing to go through."

    The Rockets fell behind 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals, which continue Friday night at America West Arena in Phoenix. Only one team -- the 1969 Los Angeles Lakers -- has rallied to win a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home.

    Charles Barkley had 34 points for the Suns, who relied on Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle to bring them back from an ominous 104-84 deficit in the final 10 minutes.

    But it was the Rockets' faulty execution offensively that opened the floodgates and left a wildly enthusiastic sellout crowd frustrated.

    The Rockets, who got 31 points and 17 rebounds from Hakeem Olajuwon, were outscored 26-8 in the fourth quarter, shot 3-for-18 from the field and had five turnovers.

    They went cold and played with the common sense of a sixth-grade team down the stretch, which might be an insult to sixth-graders. In a span of just more than seven minutes, they scored one point as the Suns chipped away at the lead.

    Even the Rockets admitted they threw their savvy out the window in the fourth quarter. They resorted to outside jump shots after trying to force the ball in to Olajuwon, who had only three points on 1-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.

    "They collapsed very strong inside," Olajuwon said. "That's why we needed to penetrate and try different things. We cannot depend on outside shots. They wanted us to shoot outside shots, and that's what we did. We played right into their hands."

    Added forward Robert Horry: "They were keying on one play, and we still kept running it. That's just my opinion, but we got too predictable.

    "It's ridiculous. Here we are with some of us talking about how much we want the fans to get behind us. We talked too much about that and didn't focus on winning the game.

    "I don't blame the fans. I wouldn't show up for the next game either."


    There might not be another home game unless the Rockets can win at least once in Phoenix.

    As for the fans, they put aside the feud that started when several players lashed out at them for failing to sell out Game 1 on Sunday.

    The crowd did everything it was supposed to Wednesday. So did the Rockets, until the fourth quarter. The Rockets missed 14 of their last 15 shots in the period.

    Cedric Ceballos and Barkley combined for eight Phoenix points as they climbed within 105-92 with 5:30 to play. When Majerle hit a 3-pointer with 3:25 to go, the Rockets' lead was down to eight points.

    Were it not for Sam Cassell's prayer of a 3-pointer with 2:34 to go, the Rockets would have gone scoreless in the final 6:48. Cassell's attempt came just as the shot clock was expiring.

    Up 108-97, the Rockets kept doing the same things that had eroded their lead -- chunking up outside shots with time left on the shot clock and turning the ball over.

    When Barkley converted a three-point play, then hit two free throws with 1:28 to go, the Suns had pulled to within 108-105.

    The Rockets suffered a senseless turnover when Cassell tried to make a pass in to Carl Herrera but had it stolen. When Danny Ainge hit a 3-pointer with 32.9 seconds left, the game was tied.

    Both teams missed shots to end it in regulation as Olajuwon had a baseline jumper rim out and Barkley missed from 18 feet at the buzzer.

    Somehow, you just knew the Suns would romp when they forced the overtime. They did.

    The Rockets got a three-point play from Olajuwon to go up 111-109, but Johnson scored and, after a Cassell turnover, Majerle got loose on the break for a layup and a 113-111 Phoenix lead.

    Cassell missed two shots and had a turnover. When Barkley hit a 3-pointer, the Suns went up 116-111, and the lead grew to nine before the Rockets made a couple of late 3-pointers.

    It was an amazing turnaround from early in Wednesday's game, when the Rockets had won back their fans, with whom players had had a two-day feud about Game 1 not selling out. The fans were as loud as they had been all season, providing a wonderful atmosphere and a legitimate sixth-man inspiration.

    The Rockets rang up 40 points in the third, but it was simply a setup for a crushing letdown.

    ....

    Choke City

    The Rockets' NBA-record 20-point fourth-quarter collapse against Phoenix on Wednesday night was just the latest in a long line of blown leads by Houston teams:

    The Oilers: On Jan. 3, 1993, the Oilers blew an NFL playoff-record 32-point lead against Buffalo in a first-round game. The Bills came back from a 35-3 second-half deficit to win 41-38 in overtime.

    The Astros: On Oct. 15, 1986, the Astros lost a 3-0, ninth-inning lead in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with New York. The Mets won a series-clinching 7-6 decision in 16 innings.

    The University of Houston: On April 4, 1983, the No. 1-ranked Cougars tossed away a five-point lead late in the game and with it the NCAA championship when North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles slammed home an airball at the buzzer to give the Wolfpack a 54-52 win in Albuquerque, N.M.

    The Astros: On Oct. 12, 1980, the Astros, with Nolan Ryan on the mound, coughed up a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the NL playoffs. The Phillies scored five times in the eighth and went to the World Series after an 8-7, 10-inning win.

    The University of Houston: On Jan. 1, 1979, in the Cotton Bowl, UH built a 34-12 lead on a frigid, windy winter afternoon. Operating with the wind at its back in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame scored three touchdowns -- the last as time ran out -- for a 35-34 comeback win over the Cougars.
     
  2. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
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    http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=1994_1201760

    Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
    Date: FRI 05/13/1994
    Section: Sports
    Page: 1
    Edition: 2 STAR

    Rockets vs. Suns: The aftermath/Hey, Houston, this joke is on you/ Rockets pin hopes on Game 3

    By EDDIE SEFKO
    Staff

    PHOENIX -- Chewed up and spit out like they belong at the bottom of the food chain, the Rockets tried to get their competitive appetite back Thursday afternoon at America West Arena.

    It's not easy when the rest of the basketball universe is getting a good chuckle at their expense.

    That's what losing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter will do to you. The Rockets, who aren't ready to admit the Phoenix Suns are the better team in this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, threw out some positive spin on their situation.

    They believe they can turn this thing around, even if nobody else does.

    But there's no way any of them could deny the obvious: They are down 2-0 against the Suns and must play the next two in the desert torture chamber that is America West Arena. Game 3 is tonight at 9:30. They could be swept by Sunday, which would mean Houston fans wouldn't have to see another home game until October.

    To still be playing 10 days from now, all they have to do is win four out of five from a team that hasn't lost since April 10.

    This is the team that says it likes a challenge and, hoo boy, do the Rockets ever have one.

    "We're in a desperate situation right now, no question," Mario Elie said. "In both games so far, we felt like we had the game won, but we beat ourselves.

    "Everybody in Houston is saying we're a Choke City. Right now, that's appropriate."

    Rest assured the Rockets feel even worse about their Wednesday night collapse than fans do. They are cognizant of the culprits that led to their disgraceful loss.

    No. 1 on the list is the alarming habit they have developed of losing big leads. Wednesday night was simply the most glaring example. They were ahead 104-84 with 10 minutes to play and lost in overtime 124-117.

    In the past three games, the Rockets have lost 56 points worth of leads. The only one of those they survived was the clincher at Portland a week ago when their 21-point lead was just big enough. They won by three.

    They were up by 18 in Game 1 against Phoenix, but lost 91-87. Then came Wednesday's nightmare.

    "We had big leads in both games (against Phoenix) and lost," Otis Thorpe said. "I think we're getting over-cautious on both ends of the court. It's an embarrassment to us and to the city.

    "Right now, we need one win. Just one win would do wonders for our confidence level and might start them thinking a little bit."

    In the emotion of the postgame locker room, several players thought a stagnant offense was the primary reason they couldn't get more than eight points in the fourth quarter in Game 2. They suggested there were too many passes into Hakeem Olajuwon and not enough penetrations or plays for other players.

    They were wrong. The only difference between the fourth-quarter attack and the scheme that worked for 40 points in the third quarter was that the Rockets couldn't make any shots and, finally, stopped looking for shots.

    "It's easy to say things in the heat of battle," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "But we shouldn't doubt our offense. We got 13 open shots in the fourth quarter and made two of them. We had five shots that were under duress and made one of them.

    "I hear guys saying we only ran one play, that's bull. We diversified more in the fourth quarter than we did in the third. We believe in our system. It creates double teams, the same way Phoenix's system does. We went through the post (Olajuwon), sure. But we go through the post a lot of the time. We ran seven pick-and-rolls.

    "This is the attack that got us 58 wins. If you've got to change your system, then it's like you don't believe in your players. I'd be a hypocrite if I said we were going to change anything. It was working.

    "But what we can't have is indecisiveness when we're shooting the ball. We've got good shooters on this team. There's no reason we should have any doubts about taking the outside shots."

    Yet doubt was all over The Summit as the Rockets saw all the air sucked out of their 104-84 cushion.

    "If you can find the potion to counteract that, let me know," Tomjanovich said.

    With Thorpe having foul trouble and the Rockets' bench reduced to only one quality contributor (Sam Cassell), Tomjanovich had precious few alternatives Wednesday in terms of personnel.

    The bottom line is that none of the Rockets were trying to miss shots as they went 3-for-18 in the fourth quarter. Nobody was trying to miss rebounds and let Phoenix get seven follow shots. And nobody wanted to become part of NBA history in this manner -- losing the biggest fourth-quarter lead in playoff history.

    "It's got to have sparked a hunger in us," Tomjanovich said. "To know we can be up like that on a team like Phoenix and not win the game. That's got to hurt."

    Even Suns guard Danny Ainge said, "We had no business winning that game."

    The Suns are beginning to think they are blessed this season, that destiny has chosen them by removing that intimidating Seattle roadblock and dealing the Rockets a sudden case of the shakes. And the Rockets are shaky at best.

    "You've got to be down after two losses like those," Vernon Maxwell said. "We've got our work cut out for us now. If we lose this one, we're really living on the edge."

    Some would say they launched themselves off that edge and into the deep canyon of no return with Wednesday's shocker. But the Rockets insist that is not the case.

    "I've seen a lot of teams in the past come back from situations worse than ours," Elie said. "There was a 63-19 team (Seattle) that lost three straight in the first round after being up 2-0.

    "We've got the team that can win three in a row against Phoenix. We've just got to start knocking down some shots."

    Up until last season, the book on the Rockets was that they would shoot themselves out of a game or fumble away a big lead if you simply were patient and gave them a chance. That's exactly what the Suns did to go up 2-0.

    But there's at least one well-connected bystander who doesn't by it.

    "That's a pretty cheap shot at their team," Phoenix coach Paul Westphal said. "Only one team gets to win the championship every season. Does that mean all the rest of them choked?"

    Well, in this case . . .

    "If we play again like we did in the fourth quarter (Wednesday), then we might as well not even go on the floor," Maxwell said. "We played to lose. I haven't ever seen us do that before."

    Added Olajuwon: "We thought there was no way we could lose that one. Now, we're down two games and it's the biggest task we have faced. Whether we can come back depends on how we take that loss."

    Unlike the Oilers 17 months ago when they lost a 35-3 lead at Buffalo in the playoffs, the Rockets get another chance. They have a chance in this series, although it's a remote chance.

    "The most important game is this one," Olajuwon said. "If we win Game 3, we're still in a beautiful position. The pressure would be back on them. We can't change yesterday. What we can change is tomorrow."

    And tonight.
     
  3. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    Great articles. The transition from Choke City to Clutch City began here.
     
  4. robbie380

    robbie380 ლ(▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿ლ)
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  5. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

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    Dig me up some Houston Post material and then Ill be impressed...
     
  6. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

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    So when did Houstonians get their torches and pitchforks to banish Eddie Sefko to hell?
     
  7. Tigerknee

    Tigerknee Contributing Member

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    How about the articles were we won in the desert? :D
     
  8. wizkid83

    wizkid83 Contributing Member

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  9. HowsMyDriving

    HowsMyDriving Member

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    i have all the newspapers (yes, the houston post) from the 1994 and 1995 finals. well, just the rockets sections actually.

    oh, and i have the life-size hakeem olajuwon poster that the post printed in like 6 different sections in the sports page too.

    stuffed in a shoebox somewhere i'm sure.
     
  10. ChenZhen

    ChenZhen Contributing Member

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    Eddie Sefko wrote it! I didn't know that idiot wrote those articles.
     
  11. JoeBarelyCares

    JoeBarelyCares Contributing Member

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    I thought it was the Post that ran the "Choke City" headline in big letters?
     
  12. wreck

    wreck Contributing Member

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    It is now our curse. It happened vs dallas and vs utah
     
  13. dreammvp

    dreammvp Contributing Member

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    those were some good time!! :)
     
  14. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

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    It was in the Post, but the Chronicle bought the assets of the Post, which I guess means they own their archives.
     
  15. Zac D

    Zac D Contributing Member

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    tinman, things like this are why you are useful to have around.
     
  16. LAYGO

    LAYGO Contributing Member

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    Incredible reads.

    Very appropriate highlighting too!

    I forgot to watch my Clutch City tapes! :(

    What I *WANT* are DVDs of both championship season playoff games!

    My heart rate still gets super fired up when I see the "Kiss of Death™"!
     
  17. GRENDEL

    GRENDEL Contributing Member

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    In retrospect, yes great times. Living through it was like riding one of the biggest roller coaster ever with no safety restraint
     
  18. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    See my sig
    |
    |
    |
    v
     
  19. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
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    Shoryuken!! (TRANSLATION -what happens when you mess with the tinman, mad max or Ken or Ryu!)

    http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=1994_1201947
    Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
    Date: SAT 05/14/1994
    Section: Sports
    Page: 1
    Edition: 3 STAR

    Rockets 118, Suns 102/REBOUND/Maxwell-led Rockets bounce back on Suns

    By EDDIE SEFKO
    Staff

    PHOENIX -- Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and his wife, Nanci, are passionate activists for animal rights. Maybe they used their clout to get the Rockets off the endangered species list.

    Fighting for their playoff lives, the Rockets played their best 48 minutes of the Western Conference semifinals to take a rejuvenating 118-102 victory Friday night at America West Arena.

    Vernon Maxwell made sure the Rockets stayed alive with relentless drives. Forsaking at times his outside shot, Maxwell drove for an assortment of baskets, scoring 31 points in the second half (34 overall) and leading the Rockets back into the series.

    "Sometimes, I have these kind of nights," Maxwell said afterward. "I put up some shots that I thought somebody else ended up tipping in and then I'd hear my name and couldn't believe it. We had to be more aggressive going to the basket. Somebody had to step up."

    And that somebody was Maxwell as the Rockets cut Phoenix's lead to 2-1 and will try to knot the best-of-seven series Sunday afternoon.

    Game 5 will be Tuesday night at The Summit.

    Maxwell was superb, as was Hakeem Olajuwon, who had 26 points and 15 rebounds.

    "We are back," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "It was a character win. We were backed into a corner and sometimes, you have to believe you can win to get a win. Phoenix still has the home-court advantage, but the pressure is on them now. And it's a lot different playing when you're under pressure."

    Don't the Rockets know it.

    "Everybody was nervous in the locker room before the game," Maxwell said. "You could tell it. It was so quiet."

    But Maxwell and Co. weren't quiet in the second half. He had hit seven of 11 shots in a third quarter in which the Rockets overcame a 12-point deficit to lead by two.

    They had started cutting the Suns to ribbons defensively. Maxwell, Sam Cassell, Robert Horry and Mario Elie made a living in the second half of driving into the interior and launching up relatively easy short shots or passing off to Olajuwon or Otis Thorpe for an easy bucket.

    When Maxwell scored the Rockets' first six points of the fourth quarter, they were up 84-82 and had the Suns on the run.

    After Kevin Johnson, who led all scorers with 38 points, missed, Olajuwon scored a layup on a nice feed from Cassell for a four-point edge, although he missed the free throw after being fouled.

    As the Suns showed one of their few flaws in this series by missing two of four free throws, the Rockets scored on every possession, getting an Elie drive, an Olajuwon jumper from eight feet and Maxwell's 3-pointer with 7:42 to go to jump ahead 93-84 and stun the crowd.

    The lead flip-flopped from seven to nine points for the next five minutes. The Rockets were up 103-94 when Johnson hit two free throws with 3:22 to play.

    The Rockets worked the shot clock down and Maxwell delivered a 3-pointer with 3:11 to go, putting the Rockets up 106-96. That shot also gave him 26 points in the second half, eclipsing the previous Rockets record for points in a half in a playoff game.
     
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  20. LAYGO

    LAYGO Contributing Member

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    Abso-freaking-lutely!

    If you were a nay-sayer, then you shouldn't have attended the championship parades!

    Hell, my horn stopped working because I was honking it so much & I didn't even make it to Westheimer/Richmond in '94. I went down there in '95.

    Watching the Rockets win their 2nd championship on TV: $0
    Purchasing a hat/shirt at Academy an hour later: $50
    Calling in "sick" to attend the 2nd championship parade: priceless
     

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