On This Date in Sports June 22, 1994: Clutch City

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The Houston Rockets win their first NBA Championship, beating the New York Knicks 90-84 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at the Summit. Hakeem Olajuwon, who is named the MVP of the NBA Finals, scores 25 points, with ten rebounds and seven assists in the finale. John Starks, meanwhile has a terrible night making just 2-of-18 shots from the field for the Knicks.

After the retirement of Michael Jordan, the 1994 NBA Championship came down to a battle of centers as Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets took on the Knicks Patrick Ewing. A decade earlier, the two met in the NCAA Championship with Ewing and Georgetown beating Olajuwon’s University of Houston team.

The Knicks had given the Jordan Bulls their toughest fights in 1992 and 1993 and felt like the logical team to take the crown, especially after eliminating Chicago in the second round. The Knicks posted a 57-25 record in the regular season under Coach Pat Riley. The Knicks took down the New Jersey Nets in four games in the opening round and survived a seven-game battle with the Indiana Pacers, recovering from a Game 5 collapse at home after winning Game 6 in Indiana and Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

The Houston Rockets coached by Rudy Tomjanovich meanwhile were slightly better at 58-24 to finish second overall in the Western Conference. The Rockets easily blasted past the Portland Trail Blazers in four games in the first round. In the second-round things looked bleak for Houston as they trailed the Phoenix Suns 2-0 after blowing a 20-point lead at home in Game 2. Rather than sulk, the Rockets won the next two games in Phoenix and won the series in seven games. They went on the stomp the Utah Jazz in five games.

The Rockets carried the momentum into the NBA Finals as they won the opener at the Houston Summit 85-78, with Hakeem Olajuwon playing big on both sides of the ball with a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds. Olajuwon continued to be a force in the middle with 25 points in Game 2. However, the Knicks double-digits from six different players with John Starks leading the way with 25 points. Derek Harper meanwhile had 18 points with seven assists, while Patrick Ewing had 16 points and 13 rebounds. This allowed the Knicks to even the series with a 91-83 win.

As the series shifted to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks suffered another setback losing 93-89, despite a big game from Starks and Harper. Houston got a big spark from Sam Cassell of the bench as the Rockets rookie had 15 points off the bench. With their season on the brink again, the Knicks got a hand from their hockey cousins, as the Rangers who won the Stanley Cup a day before, looked to bring some inspiration for the Knicks. It worked as John Starks and Derek Harper each topped 20 points, to overcome a game-high 32 from Hake Olajuwon. Game 5 would be the game nobody watched as the O.J. Simpson chase tool attention away from the NBA Playoffs. The fans who turned away missed a good game as New York won 91-84 to take the series lead. Patrick Ewing led the way with 25 points and 12 boards.


Back in Houston for Game 6, the best game of the series saw the Knicks and Rockets go toe-to-toe for 48 minutes. Hakeem Olajuwon again had a big night with 30 points and ten rebounds. John Starks meanwhile was on target with 27 points and eight assists to lead the way for the Knicks. However, it was the shot he missed that made the difference as a potential game-winning three came up short as the Rockets held on to win 86-84. Starks Game 6 miss carried over three nights later in Game 7, as he was dreadful from the floor, making just 2-of-18 shots from the field for eight points. The Rockets meanwhile kept the Knicks at arm’s length all night winning 90-84 as Hakeem Olajuwon scored a game-high 25 points with ten rebounds and seven assists, while Vernon Maxwell added 21. Olajuwon won the NBA Finals MVP, with 26.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. A new tradition was born as the NBA Trophy was presented on the court for the first time.