Rockets' duo forces hand of Magic THE 1995 NBA FINALS

June 09, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- These were the positions where the Orlando Magic was supposed to dominate in the NBA Finals: point guard and power forward. At 6 feet 7, Anfernee Hardaway was considered too big, and with three championship rings, Horace Grant was too experienced.

And, yet, after the Houston Rockets came from 20 points behind to steal a 120-118 overtime victory in a game that will be long remembered, suddenly Orlando is left to make adjustments at those positions.Adjustments such as how to contain Kenny Smith, who scored 23 points, the biggest a three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in regulation that tied the game and set up Hakeem Olajuwon's game-winning tip in overtime. Smith's five three-pointers in the third quarter broke a finals record in a quarter, and he finished with an NBA-record seven three-pointers.

And whether to keep double-teaming Olajuwon in the post with Grant, the power forward, thus leaving Robert Horry wide-open on the perimeter. Horry scored 19 points and hit four three-pointers, two of them in overtime.

"They're a team that has a lot of [offensive] spacing," Hardaway said yesterday. "I think our team is quick enough to get to their shooters."

That will take a lot of physical ability on the part of the Magic, because of the unorthodox style of offense the Rockets play, with their power forward on the perimeter.

In Game 1, at least, the double team on Olajuwon created a lot of wide-open three-pointers for the Rockets.

a lot easier to make uncontested shots than a contested shot," Horry said.

"They can't really play Hakeem one-on-one because Shaquille [O'Neal] will get in foul trouble," Horry said. "Hakeem has too many moves."

Despite being double- and triple-teamed, Olajuwon ended up with 31 points, including the game-winning tip of Clyde Drexler's miss with 0.3 of a second left. Olajuwon and O'Neal (26 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists) pretty much canceled each other out, which underlines the importance of their teammates.

Smith, a 6-3 point guard in his seventh season out of North Carolina, starts for the Rockets but often finishes the games on the bench. But Wednesday night backup Sam Cassell was limited to 11 minutes because Smith went into a zone with seven of his eight field goals coming from beyond the arc. It was a nice recovery (he scored 20 points after halftime) after Hardaway abused him over the first two quarters.

"I think he's the best point guard, in terms of post-up ability, in the league," Smith said of Hardaway. "He has strengths, but I have strengths, as well, that I have to go to. It's not a sense of conceding anything at point guard. There are things we can do to create problems for them."

At power forward, meanwhile, Horry is capable of hitting the three-pointer if left open. As expected, Grant's 15 points and 16 rebounds were impressive, but he had just six points and six rebounds after halftime. He often cheated on Olajuwon (and, when O'Neal got in foul trouble, checked Olajuwon), which left Horry open.

"We know a lot of teams like to double Dream, and they always leave me open," Horry said. "Our spacing is great. I just have to make the shots."

But Horry's and Smith's heroics would have been meaningless, and talk yesterday would have been of adjustments Houston needs to make, had Nick Anderson made just one of four free throw attempts in the final 10 seconds. Orlando's lead was three at the time, but Anderson, a 70.4 percent free-throw shooter in the regular season, tossed four bricks.

"I watched it on TV and there was no follow-through, I just jerked away from the shot," Anderson said. "I've been in that situation many times, and I've pulled through. I'm a strong basketball player, I can't let this pull me down."

Anderson received a lot of vocal support from his teammates,

"We're not worried about Nick because he's a strong player," O'Neal said. "We know if he gets in that situation again, he'll knock them down."

Anderson's misfiring could be costly to the Magic, though, as it lost home-court advantage and finds itself playing from behind for the first time in the playoffs.

Houston has never lost a playoff series in which it won the opening game. Still, among the Magic players there was a surprising sense of calm yesterday.

"This team has been pretty good about coming back after a loss," Hardaway said. "This is a seven-game series, and we're not going to start giving anything away at home."

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