Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Seattle SuperSonics at Houston Rockets, May 17th, 1997 

So, I've an old DVD of Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, the bracket featuring the Houston Rockets, and the WC's defending champs, the Seattle SuperSonics. And I figured we'd do a little running diary.

Houston was rebuilt before the season for one last go at a ring for Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley. Seattle stayed more or less the same in the 1996 offseason, save for what seemed like the innocuous addition of a defensive presence in the middle - shot-blocking and goatee-sportin' Jim McIlvaine.

Turns out, Shawn Kemp became incredibly jealous of McIlvaine's contract, and though the SuperSonics have won two clutch games in this series to tie it at 3-3, it hasn't been the easiest year for George Karl's crew.

Greg Gumbel, Bill Walton, and Steve "Snapper" Jones have the call for NBC, the game's at the Summit in Houston, and I'm ready for some Matt Maloney.

1Q 12:00: Seattle is throwing Sam Perkins, Shawn Kemp, and Detlef Schrempf out, with Gary Payton and Hersey Hawkins in the backcourt. Houston is countering with Dream, Barkley, Mario Elie, with Clyde and Maloney at the guards.

McIlvaine may have been miserable, but Karl couldn't have even thrown him out there to help on Hakeem.

1Q 11:50: I'm immediately reminded of Houston's playbook back then - which essentially let either Hakeem, Charles, or Drexler have a go at the low left block. The team would take turns, quite literally, and hope for the best. Hakeem misses a jump hook to start it, but Barkley corrals the rebound and makes both free throws. Shawn Kemp grabs an early foul.

1Q 11:15: Kemp has to pick up Hakeem in transition, and appears to have picked up his second foul guarding the post before it's discovered that the refs called the infraction on Detlef Schrempf's double-team help. I'd forgotten all about this, George Karl cutting off his starting center to spite his general manager. Classy, classic Karl. While I'm typing, Hakeem scored again on Sam Perkins. 6-0.

1Q 9:45: Bill Walton points out that Matt Maloney is jumping in the air to pass for no reason, and that Gary Payton has been taking advantage all series long. It's a nice way of saying that Matt Maloney is more than a little scared of Gary Payton.

1Q 9:14: Another Seattle turnover, that's three, though Houston is only up 6-4.

1Q 8:30: Barkley and Hakeem are missing easy put-backs near the rim, and because I'm a sportswriter and inherently full of bias, I'm attributing that to Jim McIlavine's dominant presence even though he's sitting on the bench.

1Q 8:00: Barkley makes his first shot after missing his first four on a broken play and drive, Kemp nearly picks up his second foul for the second time. Lucky guy.

1Q 7:40: Matt Maloney's kids would like to thank the NBA for the 22-foot three point line. Houston by five.

1Q 6:50: Hakeem hits another jump hook, the Rockets are back up by five, and the crowd is going nuts. It's been just a few weeks since the Celtics won it, but I'd forgotten just how loud a playoff crowd can be.

1Q 6:12: Steve Jones uses the phrase "psychological camouflage."

1Q 5:54: Rudy Tomjanovich's acid-battered esophagus would not like to thank Matt Maloney for that last finger roll/scoop shot.

1Q 4:20: David Wingate has hit two jumpers in a single quarter of basketball. Just in case you had an obscure bet to settle with Terry Stotts.

1Q 3:25: First "terrible" of the game from Walton, and it's spot on. Matt Maloney was trying his Steve Nash impression, working a live dribble on the baseline and in traffic (who knew the Suns rookie had that much clout?), while four other Rockets simultaneously tried to post up on the low left block.

1Q 2:52: David Wingate has now hit his third perimeter shot of the quarter. Wow. He'll finish the game with a 3-7 mark, but it was nice when it lasted. Seattle down a point.

1Q 2:17: Shawn Kemp hits a runner and gets fouled, and I've never seen someone so sculpted and so ostensibly in shape look so winded.

1Q 2:15: NBC would like to remind you that the WNBA starts up this summer, and that you can find all you need to know about the league at www.wnba.com. Last year, the NBA was still throwing out the http:// in its adverts, so this is progress.

1Q 1:00: Gary Payton looks like an amorous lizard with a basketball in his hands and then, following release, in the goal. Rockets by two.

1Q 0:00: Kemp's lone missed shot in the quarter comes on a half court twirl/heave at the buzzer, and the SuperSonics are up 31-30 in spite of five turnovers

2Q 11:57: Gumbel mentions that Eric Snow, in the game for Seattle, has played just 46 minutes in the playoffs so far, while GP has averaged 45 a game. Houston's actually running, so I have to pay attention.

2Q 11:20: Ah, wait, never mind. Low left block, again, for Houston. Somehow, Seattle has a 17-9 rebounding advantage.

2Q 8:45: Walton reminds us that the "Rockets have completely gone away from their post up game, Olajuwon hasn't had a touch in his spot." I'd like to remind Bill that Hakeem just had a touch on the low left block about, oh, 20 seconds ago.

2Q 8:00: Seattle looks fresher, better, deeper, and they're down one, somehow.

2Q 7:50: Eric Snow just tried a shot I can't remember ever seeing him take - a three-pointer after trying to post up a big man, trying to put pressure on his defender as Houston denied the entry pass. It looked like a dry heave, and hit the front of the rim.

2Q: 7:00: Gary Payton walks the ball up court for 85 feet with his back to the basket the entire time.

2Q 6:50: Sedale Threatt -- who was traded from my Chicago Bulls in a deal that made a young KD throw a little snit and only because he had turned on Horace Grant, Pete Myers, and Scottie Pippen to an amaretto sour or 12 -- misses a jumper. Long way to go for that one.

2Q 6:35: Houston comes out of a timeout with a nice post-up for Charles and eventual dish to a cutting Hakeem. Walton congratulates the Rockets for running a play that involves more than one person moving at the same time. Olajuwon misses both free throws, and Rudy T rips the playbook up.

2Q 5:45: Hakeem steals the ball from Terry Cummings as TC35 drove to the basket, looking like a guard. God, he was good at that.

2Q 5:40: Charles Barkley throws down the two-hand slam in transition because nobody wanted to get in his way. God, he was good at that.

2Q 5:20: Second "terrible," this time about Hakeem's footwork, and how Seattle is forcing him into places he doesn't want to go.

2Q 4:45: Houston is pulling away by attacking Seattle in transition before the SuperSonics can set up their zone, er, traps.

2Q 3:44: Walton, for no reason, "Houston is the shortest of the team that is any good in the NBA." I've no idea.

2Q 3:00: Lots of broken plays for Houston, it's a Rudy T staple. Clyde hits a three-pointer, and Houston has a four point lead.

2Q 2:54: Gumbel smartly points out that, in spite of Seattle's big rebounding advantage, Seattle has yet to score in transition once. They entered the game scoring 14 a contest on the fast break.

2Q 2:53.99: Someone blows an airhorn as Detlef shoots a free throw, and it actually manages to startle Hakeem Olajuwon more than anyone.

2Q 2:10: After seeing Gary Payton get called for a hand check foul on Matt Maloney, Bill Walton says, "that's not a foul in the seventh game of a playoff series," and sounds so much like my father that I'm a little freaked out, man.

2Q 1:48: Kemp with the spin move and score. Snapper Jones: "This has been a terrific game." I agree, 48-48.

2Q 1:10: Walton: "How can you ever argue an illegal defense call? It's a bailout call for the referees!"

Gumbel: "What?"

Walton: "Any time the refs don't want to call a foul on either side, the just call an illegal defense."

Gumbel: "And here I was thinking it was a clearly defined rule and regulation in the NBA."

Steve Jones: "Kick ball violation."

Walton: "If it's a kicked ball violation, why didn't they restart the shot clock?"

Gumbel: "12 on the shot clock, Barkley with the lay-in."

2Q 0:00: Houston 55, Seattle 50. Matt Maloney has 12 points at the half. That happened. It totally happened in a Game 7.

3Q 10:00: Walton: "Neither team can handle the ball, neither team can make a field goal." Ugly to start the second half, both teams look creaky, lots of older bodies that got a little stiff over the halftime break.

3Q 9:45: Sam Perkins hits the first field goal of the half, a turtle-slow 20-footer, 55-54 Rockets.

3Q 9:04: Gary Payton backs down his defender for a full nine seconds before throwing in a baseline lay-up. Greg Gumbel calls it "beautiful."

3Q 7:55: Houston's passing quite well, even though the team's offense is as expected as they come. Drexler hits Hakeem with a one-hand pass from 23 feet away to put Houston up six.

3Q 7:34: The Summit plays the Seinfeld theme in its entirety as Houston walks the ball up court. Nothing like quirky synth bass to get the crowd going.

3Q 7:23: Walton uses the word "anticipatory" for, as far as I can tell, the fourth time in this game.

3Q 6:58: "That's a terrible call."

3Q 5:55: Walton: "Not enough guys cut hard without the ball in today's game." Jones: "Not enough guys cut at all."

3Q 5:34: Payton is keeping Seattle in this game.

3Q 4:45: Shawn Kemp commits, and I'm not joking, his seventh foul of the game. He's been called for three.

3Q 4:02: Just workmanlike effort from both teams, and Houston is sucking at air and tugging on their shorts. Charles asks the refs, in between his first and second free throw, to fix the net so as to allow his teammates to grab a few more seconds rest. Barkley hits two free throws to make it a 68-64 game.

3Q 3:38: Charles Barkley takes a fadeaway three-pointer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Walton: "Noooo."

3Q 3:25: Drexler has seven in the quarter, he's grabbing rebounds, he's turning the ball over, he's falling on the floor, Detlef just hit a three, Houston by three. Seven in the quarter for Det.

3Q 2:20: Just in case you were wondering, yeah, I did call Terry Cummings "TC35" up there. Cummings was awesome.

3Q 1:17: It just occurs to me that, for all I know, Elton Brand could have just signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and Gilbert Arenas could have made a verbal commitment to the Miami Heat while I'm watching Hakeem Olajuwon score a put-back off a Matt Maloney miss. Journalism.

3Q 0:20: That airhorn pillock is making a difference, setting it off just as Sam Perkins misses two turnaround jumpers. For some reason, I wish I was kidding, he's only blowing it when Perkins takes a shot. Someone in Houston has a grudge. An obscure grudge. I wonder if he's still out there, putting baby dreads on a kewpie doll.

3Q 0:00: 74-67, Houston.

4Q 11:30: Charles Barkley sticks his butt into Sam Perkins at the half court line while dribbling, forces his way to the elbow-extended, and it's Perkins that gets called for a hand-check when Barkley turns to drive left.

4Q 11:18: Drexler hits a three off a broken play, Rockets up ten. Matt Bullard gives the silent but sturdy fist pump.

4Q 11:10: Because George Karl thinks that the 3-3 first quarter means that David Wingate has suddenly become a jump shooter, he leaves Wingate in the fourth quarter of a Game 7. And the result? Nobody is guarding Wingate, at all.

4Q 11:02: Walton: "Charles Barkley is the shortest guy on either frontcourt, and he's dominating the boards."

4Q 10:50: Walton attributes Barkley's rebounding acumen to his strong will, and "years of shaggin'." To be fair, Austin Powers had just come out the month before, so Walton can be excused somewhat. Rockets up ten, and the rebounding battle is tied at 34.

4Q 9:37: Hakeem Olajuwon is 3-1 in Game Sevens entering this one, averaging 28.5 points per game.

4Q 9:20: Seattle has missed 12 straight shots at this point.

4Q 8:45: Terry Cummings, who wears number 34 on this team, hits a baseline jumper.

4Q 8:32: I disagree with George Karl all the time, but the man can put on a good timeout speech. Geesh.

4Q 8:25: Jones: "They've taken Barkley out of the game, now it's time to go to Olajuwon." Gumbel: "Olajuwon with the hook." Walton: "Such balance, such poise." Such a damn good broadcasting trio, light years ahead of what we heard from ABC this year.

4Q 8:08: Mario Elie picks up his fifth foul. Elie: "All [fantastic!] ball, man."

4Q 7:46: I don't want to give Rudy T too much credit for this, because the Rockets nearly picked up a delay of game when seven guys were on the court following Elie's foul call, but Elie stayed in the game and just nailed a three-pointer to put Houston up 12. I don't think Rudy wanted him out there, but the Rockets are rolling.

4Q 7:42: Gumbel: "Karl wants a timeout and his team doesn't see him!"

4Q 7:31: Karl finally gets that timeout. I finally find out that Mario Elie raised the roof after hitting that trey. 1997.

4Q 7:14: Kemp misses a hook. It feels as if the SuperSonics has made two whole field goals this entire half. They're shooting under 37 percent (I won't say how far under ...) on the game.

4Q 6:52: Seattle miss, Barkley rebound, Steve Jones chortle. It's quite simple, really. Rockets up 14.

4Q 4:57: Jones just pointed out that the Rockets (up 14) can get three-pointer happy, and that Seattle can come back if Houston keeps taking treys. Hmm.

4Q 4:35: On the last possession, Charles Barkley nearly caved Schrempf's head in with an elbow to the head, just his second foul of the game, and he whined about it all the way to the bench. On this possession, Hakeem gets called for a ticky-tack foul on Shawn Kemp, and Barkley cuts Olajuwon off before he can even get to the ref to register a complaint. Seattle has missed 16 of its last 17 shots.

4Q: 3:55: Houston breaks the Seattle press easily, getting a layup from Drexler (miss) and a dunked put-back from Dream (make).

4Q 3:23: Houston is not breaking the press easily; Hersey Hawkins has scored twice in a row, Houston by 10.

4Q 3:03: Matt Maloney clangs two at the line.

4Q 2:36: A Detlef trey, a Mario Elie turnover off the Seattle press, and a Hawkins layup make it a five point game.

4Q 2:08: After Drexler splits a pair at the line, Gary Payton misses a 12-foot runner. That might be it for Seattle.

4Q 1:32: Kemp travels, scores a runner and is fouled, and preens as if the SuperSonics are up 20.

4Q 1:18: Matt Maloney nails a back-breaking three pointer; Houston is a step ahead of the Seattle pressure.

4Q 0:45: Houston is just killing Seattle on the offensive glass, getting to use up 45 seconds at a time even without scoring. Houston isn't actually putting the ball in the hole much, they're just using up two or three possessions at a time sometimes by milking the clock, missing a shot, getting an offensive rebound, and doing it all over again.

4Q 0:21: Schrempf hits a lay-in off of delayed transition, it's a two-point game, but Seattle has to foul.

4Q 0:18: Drexler splits a pair, but Barkley fouls Terry Cummings on the rebound for some reason. Cummings splits a pair.

4Q 0:16: Drexler back at the line, and he makes the first.

Walton: "Seattle has Drexler in a shooting rhythm at the line."

Jones: "He was in a shooting rhythm the last time [when he made just one of two]?"

Drexler misses the second free throw. Houston up three.

4Q 0:08: Kemp misses an odd, running three-pointer from the left corner.

4Q 0:01.4: Karl calls for the trap, Houston easily breaks it, Hakeem gets a wide-open reverse dunk to ice it. Seattle inbounds, and their season is over.

This may not have been my best effort, but we can have some fun with these as the offseason moves along. Let me know what changes you'd like to see. We'll also likely have some polls to determine what game you'd like detailed next, and I'll let you know if any of these are available via YouTube, so you can score at home.

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