Houston Rockets: An alternate 1994 NBA Finals timeline against Bulls

Retired Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images)
Retired Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Retired Houston Rockets forward Otis Thorpe (Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dan)
Retired Houston Rockets forward Otis Thorpe (Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dan) /

Will the Rockets get homecourt back?

Game 4 – Rockets 109-98 (Series Tied 2-2)

It was a tale of two quarters for the Rockets in the first half. A terrible first quarter that saw them score 13 points while Chicago had 29 was followed by a 33-14 margin in the second quarter to put Houston up 46-43 at the break. Maybe Vernon Maxwell lit up his team in between quarters. Whatever the case, it seemed to fire up the Rockets as they would dominate the second half to win by eleven points.

For the second game in a row, Hakeem Olajuwon led all scorers putting up his jersey number, but in a rare occurrence, Michael Jordan was held to under 20 points making only 19. Maxwell would pitch in 15 points while the Bulls saw Grant score 17 and BJ Armstrong come off the bench to tally 13 points. Both teams show 44 percent from the field, but Houston had a better free throw performance making 76 percent while the Bulls had 61 percent.

The Rockets had done their job of winning in Chicago to force Game 6 in Houston. First of all, they would try to grab a series lead.

Game 5 – Rockets 110-106 (OT) (Rockets lead 3-2)

This would’ve been an NBA classic had it been played. All four quarters and overtime were tight. Houston led by two at the half and at the end of three quarters before the Bulls tied the score at 100. We can imagine either a Michael Jordan shot or a three from Robert Horry tying the score and forcing overtime. Yet, the Rockets would grind out an overtime win scoring 10 points to take the series lead.

Jordan would regain the role of top scorer coming two points away from 40 for the night while Olajuwon had 26 and was two blocks shy of a triple-double to go with 14 rebounds. Four of Houston’s five starters had double-digits with Horry being the only exception. Maxwell finished with 22 points. Houston also had other players contribute with Mario Elie and Scott Brooks scoring six points. Maybe Brooks hit the big shot instead.

Now, the Rockets had a 3-2 series lead and had two chances to win it all. The Bulls had never faced elimination in the finals. In the real 1994 season, Chicago faced a similar situation against the Knicks. They would win Game 6, but lost Game 7 on the road. So, maybe the series has some extra spice to it?

Game 6 – Bulls 107-100 (Series Tied)

Of course, there had to be a Game 7 here. The Rockets, feeling momentum from their overtime win started off with a dominant first quarter leading 35-23. Then, the Bulls turned on the jets, none of which were named Kenny, and poor in 56 points in the next two quarters to lead 79-70 after three. Houston edged out Chicago in the fourth with little consequence.

Olajuwon outscored Jordan by one (31-30), but Scottie Pippen would come out of his shell and post 20 points. Grant would tally 18 points while John Paxon had 11 points. It came down to field goal percentage as Chicago made half their shots from the field while holding Houston to 43 percent.

Much like 1994, the NBA Finals were going to a Game 7. The Bulls lost a Game 7 in the playoffs, but without Jordan while the Rockets won the championship in a Game 7. Again, Houston had a home-court advantage. The media would say that Houston had proven to be the Bulls’ toughest challenge of their four straight finals appearances, but there seemed to be no question the Bulls would win.

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Rockets fans and all of Houston had to be nervous. Houston had gone from Choke City to Clutch City. We had blown opportunities to win big games. The Oilers couldn’t get to the Super Bowl and blew a 35-3 lead to the Bills. The Astros failed to reach the World Series in 1980 and 1986 while the Rockets had lost two NBA Finals appearances in the 1980’s to the Boston Celtics. Now, they were facing the greatest team in the NBA then, a dynasty.

Would the 1994 championship be marred by an asterisk that remains controversial even to this day? Or would the Rockets show the naysayers and the world that they would beat the Bulls and win? I was nervous to click play for Game 7 on this experiment. Take a deep breath before you click the next page if you dare.