Horry part of Rockets' best trade never made THE 1995 NBA FINALS


HOUSTON -- They hang as reminders in the bedroom of Robert Horry's home. They are framed jerseys from the Detroit Pistons, the team the Houston Rockets shipped Horry to last season after becoming dissatisfied with his lack of aggressive play.

"My feelings weren't hurt about the trade, because I look at this league as a business," Horry said. "But I think about what could have happened every day I walk into my bedroom."

Of course, the Robert Horry-for-Sean Elliott trade was negated after Elliott failed a Rockets physical because of a kidney ailment. And it has worked out as the best deal that never happened for the Rockets, who have benefited from the steady play of Horry to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic.

Despite playing out of position at power forward, Horry has shined in the series, particularly on Friday night, when he had an NBA Finals record seven steals in Houston's 117-106 victory at the Orlando Arena. Horry also contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, but it was his play at the defensive end that helped take the Magic out of its offense.

"Robert Horry, the stat sheet doesn't do any justice for what he gave us," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He did a lot of other things, and was a big factor for us."

He did it also in the first game of the Finals, scoring 19 points, including two big three-pointers in overtime of Houston's 120-118 victory. You could say that's a big reason that once-confident Orlando is now doubting itself as it faces the prospect of being eliminated in Houston.

The losses mark the first time all season that the Magic has dropped two in a row at home (the team lost just two regular-season home games), and the Eastern Conference champions face the fact that no team has won an NBA title after dropping the first two games of the Finals at home.

"We fell behind and made some stupid fouls and turnovers, and then we got down on ourselves," said Orlando point guard Anfernee Hardaway, who had 32 points, eight assists and five rebounds. "My turnovers [five] really hurt us. Hopefully, I'll do a better job in Houston."

It might be tough with the way Horry has been allowed to rove defensively. The thinking going into the series was nearly unanimous that Horace Grant would dominate the smaller Horry, who moved from small forward to power forward during the playoffs.

Horry should not be sold short. He already has survived two rounds of playoffs where he had to battle two of the best power forwards in the game, Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman. Even in college at Alabama, Horry had to toss his 6-foot-10, 220-pound frame into battles against Shaquille O'Neal while the Magic center was at Louisiana State.

"I spent two years in college at small forward and one year at center, so I know what it's like to bang," Horry said. "I don't think I could play a whole year at power forward. But I've become adapted to it, and hopefully we can continue to use this to our advantage."

It helps Horry that Grant is often overlooked in the Magic offense.

"I was able to jump in the passing lanes, and it's just one of those games where you just have to be thankful," Horry said. "It helps when you go for steals and have your teammates back there to help. Not too many teams are going to penetrate with 'Dream' back there."

"Dream," of course, is Hakeem Olajuwon, who, facing fewer double teams Friday, had 34 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in his matchup with O'Neal (33 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists).

The supporting cast of Horry, Sam Cassell and Kenny Smith is often forced to play in the shadows of Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. And in an era in which players are quick to embrace stardom, Horry likes playing in the background.

"I like the bit role because I like to be able to walk around town and not be noticed," Horry said. "I prefer to be on a team like this with two guys getting all the publicity. As long as your teammates know what you can do, it's OK with me."

It's almost ironic that Horry was to be traded last season for his lack of aggressiveness, especially because his aggressive play in this series has helped the Rockets get halfway to the NBA title.

"You know, there were no hard feelings when I got traded. I walked into Rudy's office the day of the trade and told him good luck," Horry said. "This is a business, and to me it's all about playing.

"I do think about the trade every day, and it helps me. I got traded for not shooting. I don't have that problem now. The next time they trade me it'll be because I shot the ball too much."

NOTES: Cassell, recognizing the Rockets' success on the road (NBA-record seven straight playoff victories), said the team will treat tonight's game like a road contest. "You can call The Summit the O-rena because we have a tendency to play very well on the road," Cassell said. "The only difference will be that we will wear our home uniforms." . . . Smith was surprised that the Magic opted to play Olajuwon one-on-one for part of the game. "Those are layups for him," Smith said. "He's too good. We're happy to see that." . . . Orlando players were shocked at the outcome of the first two games. "I never thought this would happen in my wildest dreams," Nick Anderson said. "We have played so hard for this home-court advantage, and to find yourself down 2-0, it is very frustrating."



(Rockets lead series, 2-0)

Game 1: Rockets 120-118, OT

Game 2: Rockets, 117-106

Tonight: At Houston, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday: At Houston, 9 p.m.

Friday: At Houston, 9 p.m.*

June 18: At Orlando, 7:30 p.m.*

June 21: At Orlando, 9 p.m.*

1% * -- if necessary; TV: Chs. 11, 4

Game 3

When: Tonight

Time: 7:30

TV: Ch. 11

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