Rockets have way with Knicks, tie mark at 15-0

December 03, 1993|By Clifton Brown | Clifton Brown,New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The Rockets came, they dominated and they remained unbeaten. They left behind a rattled Knicks team that played tentatively and became frustrated against an opponent that looked superior.

Led by the brilliance of Hakeem Olajuwon (37 points, 13 rebounds), Houston tied the NBA record for most victories to start a season, winning their 15th consecutive game, 94-85, last night at Madison Square Garden.

The 1948-49 Washington Capitols also started 15-0. The Rockets can set the record by defeating the Hawks tonight in Atlanta.

"I don't think I've ever been prouder in a basketball situation," said Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "It's just a wonderful moment in sports, at least for the Houston Rockets."

This was a coronation not only for the Rockets but for Olajuwon, the early-season favorite to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. Olajuwon embarrassed Patrick Ewing (12 points, eight rebounds), who has rarely been so clearly outplayed at both ends of the court.

"We showed a lot of character to step up our game and win at the Garden," Olajuwon said. "Patrick is my toughest opponent. You have to be prepared to play him. I just played my game and I guess I was lucky. When he comes back to Houston, he'll be coming after me."

Ewing was 4-for-20 from the field, missed his last 12 shots and was befuddled by Olajuwon's ballet-like low-post moves.

Olajuwon spun left, he spun right, he did virtually whatever he wanted. Ewing did not answer back.

And neither did the Knicks.

"They kicked our butts," said Ewing, who never established himself in the low post, eventually settling for jumpers. "The same shots I had tonight, I would take tomorrow. It was frustrating. If I had kept getting the ball, I would have probably gone 4-for-50."

Asked if he thought Olajuwon was the best player in the game, Ewing laughed and said, "He's definitely one of the best."

It was a humbling experience for all of the Knicks (9-3), who had vowed all week that the Rockets would not win on New York's home floor. But the Knicks were forced to eat their words.

"We talked a good game, but we didn't play one," said Charles Oakley, who took four stiches in his forehead after a fourth-quarter elbow from Carl Herrera. "I said some things. I had to eat what I said. All three of our losses have come against teams from the West. We've got to step it up."

Houston has yet to allow 100 points, and the Knicks did not come close. John Starks (35 points) was New York's only consistent offensive threat, but he took 27 shots and appeared to try to carry the offense by himself at times.

Several Knicks said they thought the team had played selfishly at times -- a stark contrast to the previous two games, when New York moved the ball crisply.

"The ball didn't move, it was obvious," said Anthony Mason, who took only three shots despite playing 25 minutes.

Asked why he got only three shots, Mason said: "I'm trying to figure that out myself. You can't just rely on jumpers."

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