If Houston ended up topping Portland in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, would they have beaten San Antonio in the conference semifinals? According to Hall of Famer and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, it’s not too far out there. The Dream thinks that the Rockets match up better with the Spurs than the Blazers did, and that if Houston were to have gotten past San Antonio, “they had an opportunity to go all the way.”
Via Houston Chronicle:
Olajuwon has said the disappointment of the Rockets’ Game 7 loss in the 1993 second round fueled their record-setting fast start the following season and eventual championship. On Wednesday, he said the Rockets’ first-round loss this season could provide similar inspiration, then went even further, saying this season’s Rockets have similar championship potential.
“It’s deceiving if you just base it upon the playoffs, the loss in the first round,” Olajuwon said. “It is deceiving because I believe Portland did a huge favor to San Antonio. If the Rockets got past Portland, they had an opportunity to go all the way.
“My point is that team that lost in the first round was truly a championship team because you see they match up so well with San Antonio. I think they had a better chance than Portland. You cannot judge the Rockets team based upon just being out in the first round. I think they are a better team. I think they just played the wrong team. Portland played incredibly well.”
The Rockets responded from the overtime loss to end the 1992-93 season by winning the first 15 games of the 1993-94 season and eventually the first of consecutive titles. Those teams had been together much longer than the current Rockets and made several key additions. But Olajuwon, who worked with Rockets players as a consultant this season, said a similar turnaround is possible.
“I see similarities,” Olajuwon said. “This is a championship team. You cannot look at it as only they lost in the first round. The players felt they can beat that team and were very comfortable that they could do better in the second round. We had the same feeling to not want to wait for the next season to prove they can go far or go all the way. They match up very well with every team. They are watching the games right now and the teams right now and are sure they can beat if they match up in a seven-game series. I’m sure the team is very confident that they could play against any of the teams right now and that confidence level should carry over to next season.