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There Is Still Hope, But Can History Repeat Itself?

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by DaneB, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. DaneB

    DaneB Member

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    http://www.nba.com/rockets/history/lookingback_94finals.html

    CHOKE CITY.

    A newspaper headline blared this new title for Houston after the Rockets blew a 20-point lead to the Phoenix Suns in the fourth quarter in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was the biggest blown fourth-quarter lead in the history of the NBA playoffs and came on the heels of the Rockets losing an 18-point lead in Game One, putting them down 0-2 to the Suns.

    "We traveled directly to Phoenix after the game," Hakeem Olajuwon said. "That was a terrible flight. It was silent on the plane, as if somebody had died. Nobody was prepared for what had happened."

    The Phoenix fans had their brooms out in full force as the teams took the court for Game Three, and after the first half, the Rockets looked as though they were about to be swept out of the playoffs as the Suns took a nine-point lead.

    Then the Rockets put the ball in the hands of Vernon Maxwell and went into attack mode.

    Maxwell responded with a Rockets' playoff record for points in a half with 31 as the team rolled up 77 second-half points to win 118-102. The Rockets ditched their "dump the ball into Olajuwon and have three players spot up for three-pointers" offense in favor of letting Maxwell, rookie Sam Cassell and Mario Elie drive to the basket on every possession.

    "Penetration is just hard work," Olajuwon said. "Max, Elie and Cassell ... they were willing to work for the win. Anybody can settle for the outside jumper. We didn't take the easy way out."

    In Game Four, the Rockets went back to Olajuwon, who scored a team-high 28 points, but it was the second-half play of Kenny Smith and Otis Thorpe that propelled Houston to a 107-96 win to even the series at 2-2. After the Suns cut the Rockets lead to 86-83, Thorpe responded with five straight points to bury the Phoenix rally. Smith then clinched the game for Houston with a three-pointer that gave him 17 second-half points. The Rockets had arrived in Phoenix labeled as chokers, only to return five days later to Clutch City, Texas.

    Houston took Game Five 109-86 as Olajuwon and Thorpe each scored 20 points. Phoenix rebounded with a 103-89 win in Game Six to force a deciding Game Seven in Houston.

    The Rockets held a 80-76 lead going into the fourth quarter when Olajuwon got hot, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in the final 12 minutes to finish with 37 points and 17 rebounds for the day. Cassell also came up big for the Rockets, hitting a clutch three-pointer with 4:51 to play as the 24-second clock expired to give him 22 points and seven assists for the game. Olajuwon scored seven of the Rockets last 11 points as Houston won 104-94 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1986.

    "I'm grateful to be in this position," Olajuwon said. "Now we have new life, and I'm going to stay focused and enjoy the journey."

    The next part of the journey brought the Utah Jazz to town. Olajuwon scored a game-high 31 points, followed by Smith with 27 points, and the Rockets rolled to a 100-88 win in Game One. During the following game, Olajuwon was presented with the NBA Most Valuable Player trophy, and left no doubt as to whom was the best player in the league with his game-high 41 points in the Rockets 104-99 win.

    "I just shake my head with some of the shots he has made," Jazz center Felton Spencer said. "I did all I could. I had a hand in his face and he banks in a shot while falling down. All I can do is watch the highlight film and say, 'Well, I was on him.'"

    The Jazz won Game Three 95-86, but the Rockets bounced back in Game Four to go up 3-1 in the series with a 80-78 win in a game best remembered for when the Utah clock operator forgot to do his job. With less than 30 seconds left, he watched the Jazz attempt to tie the score for almost 15 seconds without starting the game clock.

    The Rockets were crowned Western Conference Champions two days later, winning 94-83 as Olajuwon and Robert Horry each scored 22 points.

    "This was no coincidence," Smith said. "It shows me everything we accomplished during the season was for real. It's just a great feeling. This is what it's all about. I'm playing basketball in June and I'm going to the NBA Finals."

    In the Finals, the Rockets would meet the rough and tough New York Knicks. "That's part of their game," Olajuwon said. "But to win a championship, you have to use all aspects of the game well: physical, mental, speed and finesse. All playoff games are physical."

    In Game One, the Rockets matched the physical play of the Knicks every step of the way. Thorpe mixed it up with Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason under the boards for 16 rebounds while Olajuwon scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Rockets 85-78 victory.

    New York's strategy of keeping a fresh defender on Olajuwon at all times helped them to a 91-83 win in Game Two as the Rockets center made only one field goal in the fourth quarter.

    The series shifted back to The Big Apple for Game Three and Cassell came up big for the Rockets. Trailing 88-86 with 32 seconds left in the game, Cassell drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Houston the lead. He then made four straight free throws in the final 22 seconds to give the Rockets a 93-89 win.

    "I was out there doing my job," Cassell said. "The three-pointer was just another shot we needed. I hit it. It could have been any guy in that situation. It was a shot that we needed and fortunately I knocked it down."

    The Knicks won Game Four 91-82 as Derek Harper scored 21 points. In Game Five, New York went up 3-2 in the series, with Patrick Ewing scoring a series-high 25 points in a 91-84 win. Competing for television coverage with Game Five of the Finals was a shocking car chase involving O.J. Simpson.

    Unlike the rest of America, the Rockets had to put any distractions aside as they headed home to Houston with their backs to the wall. They needed two straight wins to capture the NBA title. "If we play five-on-five we can be champions," Rockets Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.

    Olajuwon made sure the Rockets would have an opportunity to play for the championship. With more than 40 seconds to play in Game Six and the Rockets protecting a 84-82 lead, Olajuwon stole a John Starks pass and was fouled by Ewing. Olajuwon calmly hit both free throws to give Houston an 86-82 lead. The Knicks came back with a basket and had an opportunity to win the game when Starks appeared open for a three-pointer from the corner, but Starks' shot never got close to the basket. Olajuwon blocked it into the waiting arms of Thorpe.

    "We are going to Game Seven," Olajuwon said. "So close and so far. I'm going to take a little time tonight to digest this win, then watch the game on tape and start preparing. But after all of the time, all of the games, all of the years, this is the one game I've wanted to play."

    Olajuwon scored 25 points to lead the Rockets to a 100-95 win and their first NBA title. He was also named Finals MVP and became the first player in NBA history to be named the league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and the Finals MVP in the same season.

    "The team has worked hard all year for the honor of being champions and the team as a whole, as a unit, deserved the title," Olajuwon said.

    So did Clutch City.
     
  2. localalien

    localalien Contributing Member

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    "Penetration is just hard work," Olajuwon said. "Max, Elie and Cassell ... they were willing to work for the win. Anybody can settle for the outside jumper. We didn't take the easy way out."


    Wow. I know somebody that needs to listen to those words.
     
  3. lastopsuburb

    lastopsuburb Member

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    Face it, we don't have the heart of the champion, we only have the mouths of of someone who has never passed the first round
     
  4. TBar

    TBar Contributing Member

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    Thanks for posting this Dane B - I enjoyed reading it again. There is much wisdom in that article. Overcoming adversity through great effort and hard work never goes out of date!

    Go Rockets!

    Believe!!!!
     
  5. NewYorker

    NewYorker Ghost of Clutch Fans

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    Boy do we miss Wells.
     
  6. codell

    codell Contributing Member

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    "there is still hope"

    of course there is! Its a best of 3 and we have HCA!

    geez some of you guys are drama queens

    ya'll act like we are down 3-1 or 3-0
     
  7. Clutch

    Clutch Administrator
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    So true. I'm kind of stunned by some of the replies out there. "CHOKE CITY" came about after we lost the first two HOME games of a series.
     
  8. TBar

    TBar Contributing Member

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    Agreed - we are in good shape to still win this series
     
  9. Doctor Robert

    Doctor Robert Contributing Member

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    I think the panic is due to 2 things. I know it is for me anyway.

    1) The Dallas series 2 years ago that culminated in the legendary 40 point loss.
    2) Tracy's lacksidasical performance in the second half of Game 4.

    The Dallas series really left a scar because we went so high at the beginning and then so low at the end. That series really left a scar on the players and the fans. Tracy went into this year's series pretty confident and obviously had the idea that he was going to redeem himself for his previous playoff losses. Now I think he is questioning himself.

    The fans expected a really hard nosed performance from the team after the humiliation of Game 3 and it was a little shocking to see them give up at such an important moment. The weird final play of the first half was just the perfect illustration of this.

    That said, a lot of the criticism directed at the team over the last few days is still correct. That doesn't mean we are losers, but the last two games have shown the worst side of this team and it ain't pretty. I know I wouldn't be nearly as worried if the Dallas series had played out normally.
     
  10. rlmjdime

    rlmjdime Member

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    I'm with you on that. It is basically a new series with the adv. in our favor via homecourt. Yes we had two horrific road games, but I remain optimistic b/c we have not played a decent game yet. Regardless of how well a job Utah has done on defense, this is not the Rockets team that I have watched all year. I believe and hope that game 5 is the game where we come alive and play with some emotion. I truly cannot believe all of the trade T-mac and T-mac bashing that has come about. He has played poorly, but he is no AK47.
     
  11. Doctor Robert

    Doctor Robert Contributing Member

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    PS:
    My opinion after Game 3 was that the series would go 6 and we would win. Now, I am definitely worried. I think it will be 7 games, and I still give the Rockets a slight edge.
     
  12. rlmjdime

    rlmjdime Member

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    I agree with you completely. But we still have not seen rockets basketball. McGrady will come out and will this team: I am not ready to think that he is done. That thought is just astronomical for me.
     
  13. rlmjdime

    rlmjdime Member

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    I do believe that JVG has been outcoached these past two games. Horrid shooting is one thing. But you can't compete with a horrid gameplan. The first two games it seemed that JVG made the right changes at halftime. The last two seems like he had no answer.
     
  14. Shroopy2

    Shroopy2 Contributing Member

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    One thing to those nonbelievers out there...

    "Dont ever underestimate..the MOUTH of a FIRST ROUNDER!"
     
  15. rofflesaurus

    rofflesaurus Member

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    We havn't seen rockets basketball because Utah isn't letting us see rockets basketball. Did you ever think that our lack of execution was caused by Utah's tough defense? Because that has been the case in the four games we've played.
    I don't expect us to play rockets basketball. I expect us to shoot in the low 40s, have T-Mac go 8 for 30, and have Yao settling for fadeaway jumpers or getting stuffed by Okur. We only played rockets basketball in the regular season against teams below .500, so i'm sorry but I don't think we'll be seeing any "rockets basketball" in the playoffs.
     
  16. count_dough-ku

    count_dough-ku Contributing Member

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    The problem is we're not shooting in the low 40's. Sure we finally managed to shoot 42% last night, but there was a lot of padding done in garbage time.

    The Rockets are hovering around the mid-30's for most of this series through 4 games. I'll give the Jazz some credit, but bottom line is the Rockets are bricking wide open shots. Juwan Howard is 4-21 in this series. No defense can make an NBA player shoot 19% in a series. NINETEEN PERCENT!!! Luther ain't much better at 5-23 for 23%.

    And let's not leave out our best player, T-Mac. The guy who said if the Rockets lose this series, it's on him. Well, through 4 games, he's shooting 32-87 for 37%. And this with Derek Fisher and Gordon Giricek guarding him most of the time.

    Are the Jazz partially responsible for these numbers? Of course. But I'd say most of it comes down to a lack of execution and frankly a lack of will. The Rockets have to want this more than Utah, cuz no Jerry Sloan-coached team will lay down. Ever.
     
  17. ShadyMcGrady

    ShadyMcGrady Contributing Member

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    Just like Dallas isn't seeing any Dallas basketball...

    They're killing us on the mismatches. By throwing 1 or 2 physical defenders at McGrady they are neutralizing him. By having Okur push Yao far out on the block and having him block nearly a third of all his turnarounds and force him into to turnovers, they're containing him.

    On offense...it's not pretty.

    There is still hope, but history for sure can repeat, that series two years ago keeps popping back up.
     
  18. Fuse

    Fuse Member

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    I disagree. Its not that we lost, its how we lost, we just got so significantly outplayed it is worrying. Compounding the fact that we barely slipped by Utah the first two games, there is much to be worried about. Utah now comes knocking on our door with confidence gathered from two home wins. Utah has been able to make adjustments, and we can. It really is as simple as that. I don't think going back to Houston is going to change that.

    The problems that we are seeing now have been there all season, its just that they are magnified because every game matters. Habits are damn hard to change, and I don't expect the Rockets to be able to do it now when they have failed the whole season.

    These games just amplifies our weaknesses. Even if we manage to sneak past the first round, I have no confidence at all that we can past the second round.

    Heck, when you have no confidence in your star players to perform even on a one on one basis, then it has to indicate something. We are a very mentally weak team, that's a fact. There is no strong willed leader on the team. Dallas is indicative of that even with all the talent they have. Dirk simply has yet to shown he can take over a game, maybe he will tonight, but who knows.

    It feels like people keep overlooking our deficiences when we win, and consistently bash those who point out the objective facts. We all want Houston to win, but the fact is, the odds are stacked against us.

    We can either win by heart or talent, or if we are lucky, with both. We have an advantage on neither on a team basis compared to any of the teams that we are facing or might face in the playoffs (I'm not talking about individual based comparisons)

    We are not ready as I said earlier in the season, and its a pity. I would love to be proven wrong, but these things are just what I see.
     
  19. rlmjdime

    rlmjdime Member

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    I understand what you are saying, but, how is the scenario of Utah losing the first two any diff't from us losing these two? I do recognize the deficiencies, but if you take away the 18 points off of turnovers, don't we have a diff't game? I realize we are a mentally weak team, but I feel the same about Utah. It only takes one game to turn a series around, and I'm not buying that we have seen our best effort yet. The way we lost was horrid, but a lot of things I've felt can be corrected. Being in the right position for boards, protecting the ball, and really T-mac attacking the basket are things I was really pissed about last night. We are a very weak team right now that I believe could also be a sleeping giant with the right spark.
     
  20. rlmjdime

    rlmjdime Member

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    I really do give credit to Utah's defense. But to put all of our woes in that basket feels like a cop out to me.
     

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