It wasn't about heart. It was about matchups.
The Seattle SuperSonics simply overmatched Houston to end the Rockets' two-year reign as NBA champions."Strengths and weaknesses mean a lot and they took away our strengths," Houston's Clyde Drexler said Sunday after Seattle downed Houston 114-107 in overtime to complete a four-game sweep of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal.
Seattle will play Utah or San Antonio in the next round.
A stifling defense that continuously harassed Houston's big offensive weapon, Hakeem Olajuwon, and some deadly accurate shooting highlighted the series for the Sonics, who stretched their win streak over Houston to 13 games with Sunday's victory.
"It was a matchup problem," Olajuwon said. "They created problems we weren't able to solve. Their whole team was working hard and playing as a team. They are trying to get where we've been."
The Rockets, whose back-to-back championship runs were marked by eight victories in which they faced possible elimination, did not go down easily. They erased a 20-point second-half deficit and tied the game at 101 on a 3-pointer by Sam Cassell with 4.1 seconds to go.
Seattle regrouped and used a 9-0 run in overtime to put away the Rockets.
"They haven't won championships by giving up," said Shawn Kemp, who led Seattle with 32 points and 15 rebounds. "They held their composure and fought back.
"It got a little scary at the end. Fortunately, we regained our composure in the overtime."
"I kept wondering: Why don't you guys just die?" added Gary Payton, who had 24 points and 11 assists for the Sonics. "I just couldn't believe it. They were like a vampire, when you stab them 18 times and they just won't die."
The Rockets, who were miserable over the first three periods, never had a lead until overtime when Drexler opened the scoring by hitting one of two free throws. Then Mario Elie's shot went in off the glass with 3:18 to go to give Houston a 104-101 advantage.
But Sam Perkins hit a pair of free throws, Hersey Hawkins had a layup, Kemp was fouled as his shot went in and converted for a 3-point play, then Hawkins made another pair of free throws to put Seattle ahead to stay.
"The way they came back, it is more relief than excitement after this game," Seattle coach George Karl said.
"I always wondered how I would feel when we would have to give up the title," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "It's not a pleasant feeling. I believe our heart was there but we ran into a team who really got it going. I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed of how we played."