Centers of attention once again

June 08, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- They were considered fierce competitors when they first battled on the basketball court 10 years ago in the NCAA championship game.

Statistically, they were able to cancel each other out. But when it was over, Georgetown's Patrick Ewing was a champion; the University of Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon was not.

"That was a long time ago," Olajuwon said yesterday, when asked about the last time the two met with so much at stake. "That was just one game. That's the beauty of the NBA -- you have many chances."

Those chances begin tonight when the New York Knicks face the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. For the Knicks, it's a chance for their first NBA title since 1973; for the Rockets, it's a chance for the first championship in their history.

And for the fans, it's Ewing vs. Olajuwon, a meeting of two hard-working All-Stars that has generated as much hype as it did in 1984.

"It's a dream matchup," Olajuwon said. "You play in the finals against another tough big man. I'm looking forward to it."

"This is not me vs. Hakeem," Ewing pointed out. "It's New York vs. Houston."

And it's two defensive-minded teams (New York was first in team defense in the regular season, Houston third) that have taken different paths to get to the finals.

Other than having to overcome a 2-0 deficit to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals, the playoffs have been a breeze for the Rockets: an easy opening round against the Portland Trail Blazers, a strong finish in a seven-game series against the Suns, a quick elimination of the Utah Jazz in the conference finals.

The result is that the Rockets will take the court after being off for eight days. That could be a difficult adjustment in a league where players are accustomed to breaks of no more than three days.

"We've been trying to simulate game situations as much as possible, but there's no way you can do that," said Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "You can't get that adrenalin up. You can't get people in the stands. You can't get the pressure. We're going to wait and see how [the layoff] affects us."

The Knicks shouldn't have any problem getting their adrenalin up, not after the physically demanding seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers that ended Sunday. New York players, despite having played in 18 of a possible 19 playoff games, said fatigue will not be a factor.

"We're not tired," Ewing said. "We're happy to be here, and we feel all those games just helped prepare us to go against the Rockets. I don't think it's going to be any easier; hopefully, we can prevail."

EWING VS. OLAJUWON HEAD-TO-HEAD

New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing has faced the Houston Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon 16 times in the NBA. Here's how they've fared head-to-head:

.. .. .. .. .. Olajuwon .. .. Ewing

Points . .. .. 26.1 .. ... .. 21.9

Rebounds .. .. 13.8 .. ... ... 9.4

Blocks . .. ... 3.0 .. ... ... 2.2

Assists ... ... 2.7 .. ... ... 1.3

Wins .. ... .. . 10 .. ... .. .. 6

Here's how they fared in their two meetings this season:

Dec. 2, 1993: Houston 94, New York 85 (at Madison Square Garden)

Player .. .. Min .. FG-FGA .. FT-FTA .. Reb .. A .. Blk .. Pts

Olajuwon ... 42 ... 15-27 ... 7-7 .. .. 13 ... 5 .. 3 . .. 37

Ewing .. ... 43 .. . 4-20 ... 4-4 .. ... 8 ... 1 .. 1 . .. 12

Feb. 24, 1994: Houston 93, New York 73 (at The Summit)

Player .. .. Min .. FG-FGA .. FT-FTA .. Reb .. A .. Blk .. Pts

Olajuwon ... 40 ... 10-20 ... 9-15 . .. 20 ... 2 .. 2 . .. 29

Ewing ... .. 34 .. . 5-15 .. . 2-2 . .. 11 ... 3 .. 1 . .. 12

NBA FINALS

NEW YORK KNICKS vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS Date .. .. .. Site .. .. .. .. Time

Tonight .. .. at Houston .. .. 9

Friday ... .. at Houston .. .. 9

Sunday ... .. at New York .. . 7

June 15 .. .. at New York .. . 9

June 17* . .. at New York .. . 9

June 19* . .. at Houston ... . 7

June 22* . .. at Houston ... . 9

*-If necessary

TV: All games on chs. 2 and 4

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