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OLAJUWON ROCKETS HOUSTON TO VICTORY OVER JAZZ, 97-90

SHARE OLAJUWON ROCKETS HOUSTON TO VICTORY OVER JAZZ, 97-90

Whatever problems Hakeem Olajuwon has had in Houston, there is one thing that's never changed: his game. He might demand to be traded, feud with the general manager or find himself out with an injury for several weeks, but get him back on the court and he's Hakeem the Dream, same as always.

In losing 97-90 Sunday night at the Summit, the Jazz got a first-hand reminder exactly why they call him the Dream. Try as they might, there never really was a way to keep him from taking over. In the final two minutes alone, the Dream was there to decide the outcome, blocking a shot here, drawing a foul there, passing the ball back out to the open man."He's been awesome," said Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich. "The guy's a warrior. The guy just goes out and plays. If we went out just to play a shooting game, he'd go out to win."

Olajuwon's stats were indeed dreamy: 35 points, six assists and 13 rebounds. The performance allowed Houston to break a seven-game losing streak. "It's good to get that go-rilla off our backs tonight," added Tomjanovich.

Certainly Sunday was a needed morale-builder for the slumping Rockets. Though Houston began the year impressively, recent days had been frustrating. The Rockets lost nine of 10 games, in part due to their own bad play, in part due to a string of games against fine teams. Of their seven consecutive losses, two were to Golden State, two to Phoenix and two to Portland. The only team they unequivocally should have beaten in the string was Denver, which pounded the Rockets 115-90.

"I'm just happy that sucker's (the losing streak) broke," said Tomjanovich.

The streak may still be alive, had it not been for an awful Jazz second quarter, in which they scored only 14 points. What was a 12-point lead quickly vanished as Olajuwon blocked two shots and scored 11 of his 19 first-half points.

Not that the Jazz didn't try their best to keep the Dream under control. They started with Mark Eaton - who nearly always does a good job of frustrating Olajuwon - guarding him. But Eaton's sore knee only allowed him to play 13 minutes the entire game. Before the night was done, everyone but the trainers had a shot at him: Mike Brown, Stephen Howard, Larry Krystkowiak and Karl Malone.

"We always have trouble with Hakeem. Down low, outside, in the locker room, wherever he is," said Sloan.

Mostly, Olajuwon was in their faces. Though the Jazz led 44-43 at the break, the Dream was still fresh and mean.

"They started to get a little physical with us in the second quarter. That hurt us as much as anything," said Sloan. "I don't know whether we were tired or what. We started standing around. We just weren't able to get it stopped."

Rookie Robert Horry's eight-point third quarter led the Rockets to a 72-62 lead.

Nevertheless, the Jazz staged an impressive comeback, scoring the first eight points of the final period. Once they got the Houston lead down to two, they hunkered down for the All-Star finish, starring John Stockton, Karl Malone and, of course, the Dream.

Each time the Jazz cut the lead to one, Olajuwon was there to build it back up. He spun for a fadeaway with 2:13 remaining, made two free throws with 1:39 left and landed two free free throws at 1:07. Each score came after the Jazz had cut the lead to a point.

With Houston ahead 91-88 and 45 seconds left, Olajuwon blocked a Mailman jumper, then drew the defense while Kenny Smith nailed the clincer with 29 seconds to go. But Olajuwon wasn't quite finished. He stuffed a Krystkowiak layup and drew a foul, making both attempts to boost Houston's lead to 95-88.

"When he's doing his thing, well, that's when superstars are going to step up," said Jazz forward Tyrone Corbin. "Tonight was a prime example. We were doubling down on him, we had four or five guys try him, but he was hitting his shots and his free throws. It was a great night for him."

Olajuwon modestly deferred. "The key for us is to find the open man," he said.

The Mailman led the Jazz with 29 points and nine rebounds, while Stockton added 20 points, 10 assists and four steals. The loss to Houston wrapped up a three-game, five-day Jazz trip with a 1-2 record. They return home now to play three straight and 10 of their next 14 in the Delta Center.

Meanwhile, Tomjanovich was only glad his dream of ending the losing streak came to life. "You've just got to do the right things," he said. "And Dream was really great."

GAME NOTES: With Detroit idle Sunday, Stockton had four steals, pulling within one of Isiah Thomas and the No. 3 spot on the alltime list . . . The Houston win tied their series 1-1 this year.