This day in 1981: Calvin Murphy leads Rockets to Game 7 win over Spurs

Calvin Murphy
Calvin Murphy /

On this day in 1981, not even George Gervin could stop Calvin Murphy from dropping 42 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a Game 7 victory on the road.

After being swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals the season before, the Houston Rockets were determined to advance further in the 1980-81 campaign. Thanks to the efforts of one of the greatest Rockets ever in Calvin Murphy, they did exactly that.

Behind the double-headed snake of Moses Malone and Calvin Murphy, the Rockets had defeated the San Antonio Spurs 2-1 in the first round of the 1980 playoffs. As the playoffs came around again in 1981, Houston would again face off against George Gervin and company, but this time in the second round.

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The series was hard-fought throughout, with both teams winning on their opponent’s home court twice in the first six games.

After a Spurs Game 6 victory in Houston, they had a chance to play host for the series-deciding Game 7.

On April 17, 1981, the Texas rivals battled it out in a game that went down to the wire. After three quarters, the Rockets were clinging to a 79-78 lead.

Calvin Murphy could not be denied, though, pouring in 42 points to will the Rockets to their third road victory of the series, 105-100.

Moses Malone would do what he does best, pulling down 16 boards for the Rockets to go along with 21 points while Billy Paultz would contribute 10 points and 13 rebounds.

George Gervin and Mark Olberding paced the Spurs, with 21 and 20 points, respectively.

#OTD 4/17/81: Calvin Murphy puts up 42 PTS to send the Rockets to the WCF with a 105-100 WIN over the Spurs.

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 17, 2020

The Rockets went on to defeat the Kansas City Kings in five games in the Western Conference Finals to reach their first NBA Finals but ultimately fell short to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.

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Still, for a team that went 40-42 in the regular season, an appearance in the NBA Finals was impressive in its own right.