Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rockets One Win from a Sweep

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rockets One Win from a Sweep

Article excerpt

The team that wasn't supposed to be here, much less repeat as NBA champion, is one win from a sweep.

In a tight game that ended with a 3-point duel, Houston eked out a 106-103 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven National Basketball Association finals.

The Rockets' improbable march to the finals can conclude with a second consecutive championship with a victory Wednesday night in Game 4.

"This is beyond human explanation, said Hakeem Olajuwon, who had 31 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Rockets. "You have to have faith in yourself. It just shows people you don't worry about your regular season record and believe in yourself."

With the kind of help Olajuwon has been getting in this series, how can the Rockets not believe?

Even after the Magic's Nick Anderson hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final 61 seconds, Houston held on down the stretch.

After Robert Horry's 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left gave Houston a 104-100 lead, Clyde Drexler made one of two free throws. Then Nick hit a 28-footer with 2.7 seconds left to give Orlando life at 105-103.

The Magic immediately fouled Sam Cassell, who missed the first of his two foul shots then made the second. But Orlando's hopes ended when Anfernee Hardaway's desperation 3-point attempt missed as time expired.

The Rockets can become the first team to sweep the finals since 1989. That year, Detroit beat the Los Angeles Lakers in four games to win the first of two consecutive titles.

No team in NBA playoff history - in any round - has come back from a 3-0 deficit. After the buzzer, Houston fans began chanting, "Sweep! Sweep!"

"I can't tell the guys anything," said Magic forward Horace Grant, who played on three title teams with Chicago. "We know what we have to do."

Added Magic coach Brian Hill: "I still think we can win Wednesday night and continue this series."

Unlike Game 2, won 117-106 by Houston, this one was close all the way. Orlando had a two-point lead after one quarter, Houston led by one at halftime and the third quarter ended tied.

In all, the game was tied 16 times. The last time was with 7 minutes 29 seconds remaining, when Shaquille O'Neal converted a 3-point play after being fouled by Olajuwon. …

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