Spurs' hopes are in question until they answer Olajuwon

June 01, 1995|By Clifton Brown | Clifton Brown,New York Times News Service

HOUSTON -- The San Antonio Spurs have not controlled Hakeem Olajuwon. They have not controlled a single game of the three played so far on their home court. And forget about trying to control Dennis Rodman.

As a result, the Houston Rockets hold a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals, a bizarre series in which neither team has won at home.

Who can predict what will happen next? But if the Rockets win Game 6 tonight at the Summit, the defending NBA champions will return to the finals -- a remarkable feat for the No. 6-seeded team in the conference.

Olajuwon's performance in Game 5 on Tuesday night was so masterful (42 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, five blocks) that even veteran Dream watchers were spellbound.

"We were in awe, and we see him every day," said Houston guard Clyde Drexler after Olajuwon and the Rockets dismantled the Spurs, 111-90.

"I kept saying, 'There's no way Hakeem can keep making those shots,' " said Spurs guard Doc Rivers. "I looked like a fool."

Meanwhile, Rodman had another bad hair day. After arriving 35 minutes late for Monday's practice and showing up just 55 minutes before Game 5, he was benched for the first 7:11 by coach Bob Hill.

When Rodman finally entered the game, the Spurs were off to a lousy start, and Rodman was never himself, finishing with five points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes, including just two offensive rebounds.

So the Spurs were left with two things they didn't need: Another home loss and another Rodman controversy. Rodman was at practice yesterday in Houston, and Hill said he would likely start Game 6.

While Rodman did not answer questions from the news media, Hill did. And he defended his decision to bench Rodman, despite the importance of the game and the importance of Rodman's rebounding and defensive skills.

"Why would I change now?" Hill said. "Him not starting last night had no effect whatsoever on our performance -- none. It's about the fiber of the team. If I start him, then I lose certain guys on the team. So then where am I going? I get Rodman for 40 minutes, but I don't get two other guys at all. That's what this league needs more than ever now.

"If you're going to have a team, then you better have an organization that's on the same page. Every winning player wants to be disciplined, but they will test you.

"Some guys will test you for two days, some guys will test you for a week, some guys will test you the whole year. That's why you've got to be consistent with your discipline."

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