Rockets 120, Magic 118, OT
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Once the Houston Rockets got to overtime, their experience and Hakeem Olajuwon were all they needed.
Olajuwon’s tip-in of Clyde Drexler’s miss with three-tenths of a second remaining in overtime Wednesday night lifted Houston to a 120-118 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
``I just think this team has been down before, we just never give up,″ Drexler said. ``We just continue to work hard and we know the big fella (Olajuwon) is going to come along.″
Come he did. Olajuwon had four of Houston’s 10 points in overtime and finished with 31, winning the first round against Shaquille O’Neal, who had 26 points and 16 rebounds and nearly won the game for his young team.
But the Magic’s Nick Anderson missed four free throws in the last 10.5 seconds of regulation, allowing the Rockets to send the game into overtime.
The Rockets got an outstanding game from Kenny Smith, who hit a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to force overtime and finished with 23 points. He had seven 3-pointers, an NBA Finals record.
``In the first half I felt there were opportunities for me but I just didn’t feel real comfortable taking the shot,″ Smith said. ``In the second half, I just felt a little bit more comfortable. The shot was blessed and started going.″
The Rockets won for the sixth straight time on the road in the playoffs, tying a playoff record.
That mark tied the 1991 Chicago Bulls. The Rockets also tied a record for total playoff road wins with eight, the same number won by the 1981 Houston team.
``This is just Game 1, we happen to win Game 1,″ Drexler said. ``Game 2 will be another tough struggle, and we’re looking forward to it.″
Robert Horry, who blocked Dennis Scott’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer in regulation, hit two 3-pointers to start the overtime and a hook shot by Olajuwon gave the Rockets a 118-115 lead.
After a timeout, Scott inbounded to O’Neal, who got the ball back to Scott, and his 3-pointer from the left side tied it with 5.5 seconds to play.
Following another timeout, Drexler took the inbounds from Horry, drove hard to the basket and put up an off-balance layup that Olajuwon tipped in off the glass with three-tenths of a second remaining.
Brian Shaw inbounded from mid-court and threw the ball off the backboard as time expired.
With its high score and frenetic pace, the game was nothing like last year’s grind-it-out Game 1, in which the Rockets grappled their way to an 85-78 win over the Knicks. In that series, neither team ever hit 100 points.
The only grappling in this game was between Olajuwon and O’Neal, whose battle in the paint was the focal point of the fourth quarter. Orlando’s center outplayed Houston’s in the quarter, but Olajuwon’s experience showed in overtime.
Olajuwon hit 13-of-26 shots but had only six rebounds, including the one that won the game. O’Neal was 10-of-16 and had 16 rebounds.
Drexler finished with 23 points and Horry added 19 points and five blocks. For the Magic, Anferenee Hardaway had 26 points and Anderson 22.
A 13-4 run brought the Magic back from a 92-85 deficit as Hardaway gave Orlando its first lead since midway through the third quarter with a 3-pointer that bounced out and in again with 6:48 to play. Then O’Neal took over, scoring eight of Orlando’s next 12 points for a 110-107 edge with 1:17 left.
The Magic saw their 11-point halftime lead all but erased in the early minutes of the third quarter amid a flurry a Rockets 3-pointers. Houston took its momentum from the end of the first half and came back to take the lead, 71-69 on Drexler’s fast-break layup.
Hitting 7-of-11 from behind the arc in the quarter, the Rockets got five 3-pointers from Smith while building a nine-point lead.
Everything seemed almost too easy for Orlando at the start.
With Grant controlling the boards and Hardaway driving to the basket, the Magic raced to a 20-7 lead. O’Neal went to the bench after picking up his second foul with 5:24 left in the first period, but his absence barely slowed down Orlando, which led 30-19 at the end of the quarter.
Then it was Anderson’s turn. He hit three 3-pointers and drove for a two-handed dunk in less than three minutes to put the Magic ahead 57-37 with 3:46 left in the first half.
The Rockets then outscored the Magic 13-4 to end the half, with Drexler scoring the last seven points. He had 15 in the quarter.
After Olajuwon got his second foul early in the second quarter, O’Neal was guarded by 38-year-old Charles Jones but still had a quiet first half with just nine points. He spent most of his time passing out of the low post, getting five assists.