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On This Date in Sports December 2, 1993: Rocket Power

The Houston Rockets' fantastic start continues as they beat the New York Knicks 94-85 at Madison Square Garden to improve to 15-0 on the season. The 15-straight wins to open equals the best start in NBA history set by the Washington Capitols in 1948/49. The Rockets would beat the same Knicks in the NBA Finals after finishing the season with a record of 58-24.

After the retirement of Michael Jordan, the big question in the NBA was who would take over as the NBA’s biggest star and the NBA’s best team. Most looked towards the New York Knicks, coached by Pat Riley, with Patrick Ewing leading the way after their gut-wrenching loss to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Others were expecting the Phoenix Suns, coached by Paul Westphal with MVP Charles Barkley, to take over after they played in the NBA Finals. The Rockets shot to the top of the league by winning their first 15 games.

The Rockets were coached by Rudy Tomjanovich, who had played with the team in the ’70s and was best known for his horrific facial injuries suffered from Kermit Washington’s punch. With Hakeem Olajuwon leading the way, the Rockets had a solid season the year before, going 55-27 before losing to the Seattle Supersonics in the second round. The Rockets began their season with a 110-88 win over the New Jersey Nets at the Summit. Eight days later, they improved to 5-0 with a 99-95 win over the Phoenix Suns, sending an early message that they were for real. On November 23rd, the Rockets reached a 10-0 start with a 100-93 win over the Jordan-less Bulls. The next three games would be the toughest during the Rockets’ winning streak, as they needed overtime to beat the Utah Jazz 95-93 at the Delta Center. Two days later, they edged the Sacramento Kings 92-89 at Arco Arena and finished the Western swing with an 82-80 win over the Los Angeles Clippers to reach 13-0. After a 102-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at home, the Rockets headed to New York, sitting 14-0.

It was the perfect early season matchup for TNT, as the New York Knicks, at 9-2, hosted the 14-0 Rockets. The game started out as a classic battle, as the first quarter was a stalemate, with both teams scoring 28 points. Houston’s defense clamped down on the Knicks in the second quarter, allowing just 13 points as they held a 51-41 lead at the half. The Rockets remained in control in the third quarter, outscoring New York 29-20 to build an 80-61 lead. The Knicks finished the game strong but could not overcome the 19-point deficit, falling 94-85. Hakeem Olajuwon was the game’s leading scorer with 37 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists. He also had a masterful game on defense, holding Patrick Ewing to 12 points. The Knicks' leading scorer was John Starks, who had 35 points, five assists, and five steals.

At 15-0, the Houston Rockets equaled the best start in NBA history, set by the Washington Capitols coached by Red Auerbach in the 1948-48 season. The streak would end the following night with a 133-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at the Omni. The Rockets would cool down in the middle of the season but finished the year with a solid 58-24 record as Hakeem Olajuwon won the NBA’s MVP. The Rockets would again find their groove in the playoffs, as they went on to win their first NBA Championship, beating the Knicks in a thrilling seven-game series. The 15-0 start would remain a record for two decades until it was topped by the Golden State Warriors and their 24-0 start in the 2015/16 season.