Hakeem Olajuwon could have used some help.
The leading scorer in this year’s NBA playoffs, averaging 32.1 points, had another monster game - 43 points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots and four assists. He even hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds, his first of the playoffs.
It wasn’t enough, though, as the Houston Rockets faded in the fourth quarter and lost 107-102 to San Antonio on Friday, trimming their lead to 2-1 over the Spurs in the best-ofseven Western Conference final.
“I don’t know there’s a word to describe him,” San Antonio coach Bob Hill said. “I don’t know how to explain him. He’s writing a book on post play.
“He’s making jump shots, hook shots, scoop shots. It makes it all the more pleasant when we beat him.”
Olajuwon scored 14 points in the first quarter. When he took his first rest on the bench with 10:15 remaining in the second period, he already had 19 points. By the half, he had 23.
On two straight trips down court, he had Spurs center David Robinson talking to himself after double spin moves resulted in two buckets.
“He’s at his best now,” Robinson said. “The man is going to score. You’ve just got to play him as tough as you can and make his shots as difficult as you can.”
Robinson said after competing against Los Angeles’ Vlade Divac, it’s taken a couple of games for him to get accustomed to Olajuwon’s running, fadeaways, twists and turns.
“If anything, I think I’m more settled in,” Robinson said. “I feel better playing him, better and better.”
“He’s a warrior,” Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “He played very, very well.”
Tomjanovich said he didn’t object that Olajuwon dominated the scoring at the expense of other Houston players.
“You take what you can get if things are working good and people are getting the open shots,” he said. “We won a championship that way. I’ll always stick with that.”
Olajuwon said he never expected the Spurs to be easy, even though the Rockets took the opening two games on the road.
“We better make some adjustments,” he said. “The key to a championship series is that you will be tested in all different situations. We have to adjust again. We’ll have to prepare for everything they might do.”
“There’s not a whole lot you can do,” Robinson said of his battles with Olajuwon. “I had to really bear down. You try to mix it up. I try to keep him guessing. I’ve got to get into his head a little.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.