2. Utah Jazz
While Mario Elie didn’t expressly put the Jazz in the two-spot in his rankings, it’s a safe bet to have them there. Like the Suns, the Jazz were in the way during both of the Rockets’ championship bids — once in the Conference Finals and once in the first round.
In the 1994 postseason, the Rockets couldn’t be denied a trip to the NBA Finals once they gained momentum after their Game 7 win over the Suns in the semifinals.
Hakeem’s 27.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game led Houston to a 4-1 series win over Utah, which ultimately led to a 4-3 NBA Finals win over the New York Knicks for the team’s first NBA title.
As the sixth seed in 1995, a rematch with the Utah Jazz was a different story that almost had a different result. Led by Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton, Utah pushed the Rockets to a deciding Game 5 in the first round of the playoffs.
After building a 7-point lead to enter the fourth quarter in front of their home crowd, the Jazz allowed a 20-9 run from Olajuwon and the Rockets, who used their fourth-quarter surge to push them over the top for a 95-91 victory.
Houston would be tested by Phoenix and San Antonio before sweeping Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic to complete their bid for back-to-back titles.
Next: Seattle SuperSonics