Over 20 years ago the Houston Rockets made the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Their opponent was the rival Seattle SuperSonics, and the series went the full seven games, with the deciding game going to overtime.
If there was one team in the early 90’s that gave the Rockets fits it was the Sonics.
Complete with future Hall of Famer Gary Payton at point guard, The Reign Man Shawn Kemp at power forward, Houston native Ricky Pierce at shooting guard, Derrick McKey at Small forward, and Big Smooth Sam Perkins at Center. The Sonics also had defensive specialist Nate McMillian on the bench, and a young George Karl coaching defense over everything.
What gave the Rockets fits, was the swarming of Hakeem Olajuwon whenever they played, leading to “illegal defense” frequently. Also, Houston was without much more then a starting five. Hakeem was joined by Vernon Maxwell, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Smith, and rookie Robert Horry. The Rockets bench was comprised of Carl Herrera, three-point marksmen Matt Bullard, and future Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
Neither team won 50 games the year before, and neither was among the top four seeds either, but both teams finished the season with 55 wins.
The series of SIZE vs. Speed wasn’t that competitive, with the home team winning by double digits each time. Prior to Game 5, the Rockets were ridding momentum from two easy wins in Houston. They ended up getting spanked by 25 points. Seattle took that momentum and promptly lost by 13 in Houston.
That left Game 7 as the final chance for this series to really live up to the hype. In the end, it did just that with a thrilling, if controversial result. The Sonics went on to lose to the Phoenix Suns, who then lost to the Chicago Bulls.
The following season Houston would add Mario Elie, and Sam Cassell, and be gifted a blessing by the Denver Nuggets, and the Los Angeles Lakers who both ousted the Sonics in back-to-back years.
Those two years the Houston Rockets were the champs.