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Tuesday August 23, 2011 12:14 PM

A Dream Come True: Part II


Reliving Hakeem Olajuwon's historic quadruple-double performance

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - If you missed Part 1 of Rockets.com’s look back at Hakeem Olajuwon’s quadruple-double performance, click here to read and view all the highlights from the game’s first half.

 

2:00 – Olajuwon wastes precious little time adding to his assist total in the third quarter, working out of the low-post before picking out a wide-open Mitchell Wiggins for a simple 10-foot jumper. One of the most underrated aspects of a dominant big man’s development surely lies in his ability to recognize double-teams and defensive rotations at a rapid enough rate so that he can find the open man, in the process punishing opponents for devoting so much attention to a single player. Here, you can really see Dream coming into his own in this regard, as he not only locates Wiggins with ease, but also pump-fakes a pass to Johnson in order to free up Wiggins in the first place. A few years from now, Olajuwon will have fully mastered this art which will serve as the fulcrum for the inside-out offense the Rockets will employ on their way to back-to-back NBA titles.

 

3:10 – The Rockets’ big men are at it again, once more making Milwaukee’s life miserable with their exquisite full-court passing. This time it’s Otis Thorpe doing the deed – off a made free throw, no less – hitting Wiggins right beneath the Bucks’ basket with the inbounds pass from the other end of the court. Milwaukee head coach Del Harris is surely beside himself at this point – that should never happen off a made free throw – but even taking into account the Bucks’ defensive negligence, you have to admire the gumption and skill possessed by Thorpe and Olajuwon for having the guts to make those passes in the first place, and for repeatedly putting them right on the money, resulting in a bevy of easy buckets for their team. Such a beautiful sight to behold.

 

1:48 – With the Bucks down 14 and time starting to become a factor in any hopes they might have of a comeback, Milwaukee makes a halfhearted attempt at a full-court press which works about as well as these things often do at the NBA level. The Rockets require only two passes to advance the ball to Buck Johnson who unleashes a bucketful of fire and brimstone upon the head of Brad Lohaus with a dunk that comes straight out of the James Worthy greatest hits catalog. Definitely worth repeated viewings.

The third quarter winds to a close with Houston comfortably on top 90-72. It’s all about Olajuwon’s pursuit of history now. Heading into the final frame he’s got double-figure points and rebounds, but still needs two more assists and three more blocks for the quadruple-double. One would assume acquiring the requisite number of rejections would be the most challenging part of his quest. Then you remember this is Akeem (this game took place before the ‘H’ was added to his first name) Olajuwon we’re talking about.

 

1:05 – OK, I lied. Before fully focusing on Dream’s quest for the quad I have to say a word about Larry Smith, seen here pulling down one of his seven rebounds on the night (collected during just 17 minutes of action). Smith was an absolute rebounding machine, averaging 9.2 boards per game for his career, despite the fact he only played about 26 minutes per contest. He wasn’t much of a scorer and his free throw shooting made him a late-game liability (before there was hack-a-Shaq, Don Nelson once employed the hack-a-Larry strategy against the Rockets), but I’d take Mr. Mean on my team any day of the week. His attitude, toughness, work ethic and relentless rebounding made him one of those quintessential glue guys clubs love to bring off the bench.

 

:45 – With the game well out of reach, we’ve reached the point in the evening duing which the announcers are now doing little more than tracking Olajuwon’s race for the record books. Worrell and Newlin are living and dying with each Rockets shot that immediately follows a pass from Dream, and of late that’s mostly meant a lot of dying. In fact, you can practically hear Newlin shaking his head when he laments that Houston players have missed four of their last five shots set up by Olajuwon.

2:50 – While assists are currently proving hard to come by, it should be noted that Dream is having no such issues swatting shots. About halfway through the fourth quarter, Olajuwon rejects his 10th shot of the game, ensuring that he’ll walk away from this contest with a triple-double at the very least. And active players take note: nearly every single one of Olajuwon’s blocks has stayed inbounds, igniting a Rockets fastbreak in the process.

3:09 – Naturally, just as I’m getting comfortable on my high horse, Dream sends a Milwaukee shot screaming out of bounds for block No. 11. OK, so he’s not perfect. But he’s close. Real close.

6:25 – Olajuwon finally gets some help in the assist category as Vernon Maxwell coolly drains a 3-pointer following a kick-out from Dream. No surprise that Mad Max would be willing and able to deliver come crunch time. Pretty sure the word “fear” has no meaning in that man’s mind.

By the way, with 3:46 remaining and the Rockets up a whopping 28 points, there’s no use denying that Dream and Houston are in full-on stat-grabbing mode now. Does that in any way diminish the achievement? I suppose, like most things in life, it depends upon your perspective. What can’t be denied, however, is the all-around greatness on display in this game. And, again, it’s worth noting that this is the second time in a month that Olajuwon has flirted with the oh-so-elusive quad.

 

1:15 – And there it is. Fittingly, Olajuwon corrals rebound No. 16 following a Tim McCormick miss (which came via a pass from Dream, of course), before dishing to a scorching-hot Lewis Lloyd who drains the decisive jumper (Morey midrange madness alert! Sweet Lew had not one, but two feet on the 3-point line while releasing the big shot). Big smile from Dream, deserved exultation from Worrell and Newlin, and a timeout by Don Chaney allowing Olajuwon to bask in the love shown by the adoring Summit crowd.

21 years later, the moment still produces goose bumps. The most amazing part: this wasn’t even Olajuwon at his best. He scored only two points in the second half (both at the free throw line) and shot just 6-14 from the floor. In other words, even when making history, Dream still had much more to give – as Rockets fans, and the rest of the basketball world, would find out four years later …

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