Big Game by Olajuwon Lifts Rockets over Suns

Article excerpt

The Houston Rockets finally became heroes instead of heartbreakers to their fans.

Hakeem Olajuwon, virtually unstoppable inside, scored 37 points and grabbed 17 rebounds Saturday, leading the Rockets to a 104-94 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the seventh game of their National Basketball Association playoff series.

The Rockets advanced to the Western Conference finals against the Utah Jazz.

The heartbreak - and pain - was for the Suns' Charles Barkley, who may have ended his career by being tossed from the game after hobbling up and down the court with a groin injury. He was ejected with 7.4 seconds to play, then said he plans to get medical advice about his chronic back pain before continuing his career.

"The bottom line is I'm not going to play with the pain I've been in," Barkley said. "I'm going to get with the doctors and if they can make me better fine. If not, it's been a great ride.

The end for Barkley came with the Rockets ahead by seven points. Barkley fouled Olajuwon hard while he was dunking, Vernon Maxwell charged in to object, and Barkley shoved Maxwell, who also was ejected.

The Rockets, who blew a 20-point lead with 10 minutes to go in Game 2 and lost 124-117 in overtime, had a chance to fade again when the playoff-hardened Suns closed what had been a 16-point deficit to 77-76 late in the third quarter. …