95 Houston Rockets Obtain Time Machine, Play the 96 Chicago Bulls (Part II of II)
The national press was hard on the Houston Rockets after going down 2-0. And the two-time champions would return home to Texas to see that the Houston press was even harsher. If you drove around Houston that Saturday and Sunday morning leading to Game 3, you would see not a sign that the Rockets were playing a championship save for a billboard in the process of being torn down hanging over the freeway. As you went to Game 3 of the 1996 NBA Finals at the Summit, you would see tons of fans outside wearing Bulls horns on their heads and holding brooms. Nobody in Houston was the slightest bit enthusiastic about these Finals anymore.
But inside, it told a much different story. You couldn't even hear the announcer do the starting lineups. The Rockets fans were ready and waiting. And the game turned into an NBA Finals classic.
The Rockets went up by 26 in the first half. Jordan couldn't shoot. Pippen was off. Kerr didn't help as usual. But in the second half, the Bulls Jud Beuchler hits three straight 3 pointers and suddenly it's a 17 point defecit in the 2nd half, very very managable. And the Bulls come back. With a minute to play and the Bulls up by one, Pippen hits a three. Chicago's up 4 with a minute to go. Timeout Rockets. Olajuwon gets it and does a dream shake over Rodman and Longley and scores. Then the Bulls miss because Jordan drives and goes underneath to Kerr who sucks. And so back come the Rockets on another fast break. Out to Horry, to Cassell, back to Horry who LAYS IT IN AND IS FOULED!!! So Horry goes to the line with the game tied and 16 seconds left. He misses the free throw. Rodman rebounds and Phil Jackson calls time out. They give it to Jordan. He misses and we go to overtime.
In overtime the Bulls go up by 8 with 2 minutes to go but Cassell is fouled as he tries a three. He makes it. And he makes the free throw. It's a 4 point game now. Jordan is called for travelling!!?!! And so the Rockets get it back and Kenny Smith shoots a 3, makes it, but they say his foot is on the line. The Rockets nonethless are within 2 and there's a whole minute to go in overtime. They go underneath again, Pippen missing, Rodman get the rebound and looks around for someone to pass it to and it's enough time for Olajuwon to knock it away. To Cassell, to Elie, to Cassell...back out to Clyde Drexler...a three....GOT IT!!! Rockets lead by 1 with :43 seconds. Jordan comes down. Hits the turnaround easily. Boom. Chicago back up by 1 with 30 seconds left. Now it goes to Olajuwon, and Rodman is called for a foul. Olajuwon goes to the line, misses the first, but ties the game up. Again the Bulls get it. Jordan with 16 seconds and a chance to win. He comes down court, goes up for a jumper, misses, Pippen the rebound and he's called for a loose ball foul?! So the Rockets get it back with :05 and a chance to win. They throw it back to Drexler...to Horry...for three...GOT IT!!! FANS GO NUTS!!! Rockets lead by 3 with :01 left. Bulls call time out and advance the ball. It goes to Jordan -- for three -- GOT IT!!! Second overtime coming up in Houston! It collectively goes quiet at the Summit.
And in the second overtime, the Bulls go up 10 with a 1:30 left and never look back. They go up 3-0 and that final Jordan shot at the end of overtime becomes the next big overexposed Jordan highlight, despite the fact that his previous misses are what put them in that position.
And in Game 4, the Bulls rout. Jordan can't miss, Rodman's getting everything through big groups of players, and Pippen is driving past both Olajuwon and Horry with ease. Drexler is missing and has 4 fouls after the first quarter. Jordan breaks his old record of 36 in the 1st half of a Finals game with 42. Bulls are up by 40 in the 3rd quarter, putting 96 points up while the Rockets are still in the 50s. And they win the championship.
And now for some real history. Click below!