ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hakeem Olajuwon tapped in Clyde Drexler's missed shot with three-tenths of a second remaining in overtime to lift the Houston Rockets to a 120-118 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night.
Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night.
Kenny Smith's three-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation, his seventh of the game, sent the game into overtime tied 110-110.
Smith faked Anfernee Hardaway off his feet and sank the three-pointer from straightaway after Orlando's Nick Anderson missed four foul shots that could have sealed the victory for the Magic.
Anderson missed a pair of free throws with 10.5 seconds remaining, but rebounded the second and was immediately fouled again. His two attempts with 7.7 seconds remaining also bounced off the rim.
Orlando's Horace Grant tipped Anderson's last miss out to Smith, who called timeout with 5.6 seconds remaining to give the Rockets an opportunity to set up the tying basket.
Smith heated up and Orlando's three-point shooters cooled off as the Rockets roared back from an 11-point halftime deficit to take an 87-80 lead into the fourth quarter.
Smith, just 1-for-3 from the field in the opening half, made five treys in six attempts to key a 37-point quarter that enabled the defending champions to overcome Orlando's quick start in its first appearance in the championship round.
The Magic dominated the first half in shooting percentage (51.0 percent to 41.9 percent), rebounding (25-19) and three-pointers (five to three). And yet despite leading by as many as 20 points, the lead was just 61-50 at the half because Clyde Drexler provided a late pick-up by scoring the final seven points.
The Rockets early looked as if they were hurt from the long layoff -- they clinched against San Antonio last Friday.
And the Magic, with the home crowd roaring its approval took advantage. By the midway point of the quarter the Magic led by as many as 12 points and Grant (seven points, nine rebounds) and Hardaway (11 points) were dominating their positions as expected.
Aside from Olajuwon (10 points in the first quarter), the Houston players appeared tentative going to the basket and the "supporting cast" combined to hit just three of 15 shots from the field. The Magic led by as many as 15 points in the quarter after which they had a 30-19 lead and O'Neal had yet to get involved.
O'Neal had picked up two fouls in the first quarter, which limited him to two points and one rebound in seven minutes. Orlando's game plan at the start of the second quarter was clear get O'Neal off. It succeeded.
He scored seven of Orlando's first nine points of the second quarter (including one lob dunk in the face of Olajuwon). O'Neal's hook shot and free throw with 8:43 left increased Orlando's lead to 39-25.
Later Nick Anderson caught fire, scoring 11 points (including three three-pointers) over a span of just under three minutes. The final three-pointer came with 3:46 left, gave Orlando a 57-37 lead and the Magic looked on the verge of blowing Houston out of the arena.
And making things worse for the Rockets, Olajuwon picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench with 3:10 left. But Mario Elie scored on consecutive lay-ups, starting the Rockets on an 11-4 run to end the quarter. And with Drexler shaking off a slow start (all 15 of his first-half points came in the second quarter) to score the last seven, the Rockets were fortunate to at least have a pulse going into the intermission.
And it was clear at the start of the third quarter that the resuscitation process was complete. Smith, Drexler and Elie began driving to the basket, and shots that were clanging off the rim in the first half were finally catching the bottom of the net. When Elie made a three-pointer with 5:51 left the game was suddenly tied at 69. And Drexler followed with a driving lay-up, giving Houston a 71-69 lead and completing a 28-10 run that began at the end of the second quarter.
For the Rockets, it only got better. Smith, who had just three points in being outplayed by Hardaway in the first half, got hot. Over the final 2:10 of the half Smith hit three three-pointers (Horry would add another during the span). Smith scored 15 points in the third and Houston was suddenly in control, leading by as many as nine points and taking an 87-80 lead into the final quarter.
ORLANDO MAGIC vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS
(Rockets lead series, 1-0)
Last night: Rockets 120, Magic 118
Tomorrow: At Orlando, 9 p.m.
Sunday: At Houston, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: At Houston, 9 p.m.
June 16: At Houston, 9 p.m.*
June 18: At Orlando, 7:30 p.m.*
June 21: At Orlando, 9 p.m.*
* -- if necessary; TV: Chs. 11, 4