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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rockets Grab First Title for Houston

HOUSTON, Texas -- New York's dream died, but for Houston a nightmare of frustrated championship bids is over. The New York Knicks' three-year quest to win a National Basketball Association championship under Coach Pat Riley ended as Hakeem Olajuwon lifted the Rockets and the city of Houston onto his shoulders and carried them to their first NBA championship. Olajuwon, the regular-season Most Valuable Player and also MVP of the finals, had 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks as the Rockets overcame the Knicks' fourth-quarter defense Wednesday night and won Game 7 of the NBA Finals, 90-84. No Houston team had ever won a championship in any major sports league. Riley gave Olajuwon credit. "The Houston Rockets have to be considered a great team, and usually a great team is led by a great player," Riley said. "This championship will kick him over the top. "There's no solace in any words I can give" my team. "I don't think I've been prouder of any team in my life. But tonight is Houston's night, and I hope they wear it well." Defense dominated the entire series, so much that for the first time in a championship series since the NBA introduced the 24-second clock 40 years ago neither team scored more than 100 points in any game. It was only the second time in 67 seven-game playoffs in which the winning margin in every game was in single digits. "This was the most nerve-wracking playoffs I've ever seen in my life," said Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "Every game went down to the last quarter and the last couple of plays." True to the nature of this white-knuckler of a series, nothing was decided until late in the game. The Knicks trailed by only 78-75 with 2:51 left, but the Rockets cleared out for their franchise player, and the Nigerian-born Olajuwon beat Patrick Ewing for the last time in their one-on-one matchup with a jump hook from the right baseline with 2:30 left. When Vernon Maxwell followed that with a 3-pointer with 1:48 to go, the Rockets and the Summit crowd exploded, the players pouring off the bench to hug Maxwell, who finished with 21 points. John Starks all but shot the Knicks out of any chance to win by going 2-for-18 from the floor, including 0-for-11 on 3-pointers. Starks said, "Yes, I blame myself. I felt I should have come up bigger in a game like this." Riley defended his decision to keep Starks in the game even though he was misfiring badly. "John almost singlehandedly won it for us in Game 6" which Houston finally took, 86-84. "You go with your players," Riley said. "You go up with him, you go down with him. "This game comes down to making or missing. Some times in this series we made. Tonight, we missed." Those misses left Patrick Ewing, who scored 17 points, without the championship he has craved since joining the NBA in 1985. "I'm extremely disappointed in the fact that we didn't win a championship, but I still feel pride in my teammates," Ewing said. "I think we came out and gave 110 percent. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get the win." The Rockets' previous trips to the finals in 1981 and 1986 ended with sixth-game losses to the Boston Celtics. "Houston, you've wanted it for so long. You've finally got it," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said as he accepted the championship trophy. True to the form of the first six games, neither team was able to mount any kind of substantial lead, and it was close again -- 63-60, Rockets -- entering the fourth quarter. Olajuwon went from alert passer in the first half to potent scoring force in the third quarter, scoring eight points in helping the Rockets maintain their slim lead. Then, just as the Knicks were hoping to clamp down on the Rockets in another tight fourth quarter, Cassell scored eight of the Rockets' first 11 points of the quarter to give them their biggest lead of the night, 74-66, with 8:31 left. Four of Cassell's points came on free throws and he added a pair of jumpers. Just as quickly, the Knicks closed the gap again, as Charles Oakley hit a 16-footer and Greg Anthony a 3-pointer to cut it to 74-71 with 6:51 left. But the Knicks never got closer. The Knicks again dominated the offensive boards in the first three quarters, but this time it was not enough to compensate for their poor shooting. Starks went scoreless in the third period and took a 1-for-7 shooting effort into the fourth. Ewing scored eight points in the third after a shaky offensive game in the first half. But the Rockets kept the Knicks at arm's length. The Knicks tied the game once and got within a basket twice in the first four minutes of the second half, then were held four minutes without scoring as the Rockets opened up a 57-51 lead. The Knicks got a 3-pointer from Derek Harper and a jumper from Oakley in the final minute of the third, but again the Rockets answered as the clock wound down, with Carl Herrera throwing in a running hook from the right baseline with 4.2 seconds left to give them a 63-60 lead going into the fourth. The seven-game series was dominated by the battle between the two giant centers -- Olajuwon and Ewing -- who last met in a title game in college in the 1984 NCAA championship. Then, Ewing's Georgetown defeated Olajuwon's University of Houston, 84-75. Dikembe Mutombo, of the Denver Nuggets, recently told Sports Illustrated that he felt torn over the Ewing-Olajuwon matchup. "I pull for Patrick because we share Georgetown, but I pull for Hakeem because we share Africa," said Mutombo, who succeeded Ewing as a center at Georgetown and is a native of Zaire. "They both deserve it so much. They have waited so long. It is as if two men have been in the desert and they come upon one glass of water. There is only enough for one of them to drink. When you watch them, do you not wish there could be two glasses of water?" (Newsday, AP, MT)