EXCERPT | June 2,1986
This is an article from the May 18, 2009 issue
Punching It Up
The Lakers-Rocketsfeud before Kobe and Artest
The contretempsthat have heated this year's Rockets-Lakers playoff series are nothing newbetween the teams. SI's Jack McCallum chronicled the Western Conference finals,and all its shenanigans, 23 years ago.
The situation wasas improbable as the final shot itself—a twisting, half-blind, turnaroundprayer launched by a guy who is supposed to clutch in the clutch. The ballbounced on the front of the rim, again on the back and then, just as the finalbuzzer sounded like a doleful foghorn for the home fans in the L.A. Forum, itdropped through the basket. The Rockets had beaten the Lakers 114--112, theirfourth straight win and the one that sent the revved-up Rockets into thefinal.
Trailing 3--1 ingames, blowing leads of as much as 14 points, the defending champion Lakers hadfailed to pull away even though their personal Marquis de Sade, Akeem Olajuwon,was in the locker room. And then, with a second left and the score 112--112,L.A. coach Pat Riley chose not to contest the inbounds pass that Rodney McCraywould send so easily to 7'4" Ralph Sampson.
McCray might havebeen looking to pass to Olajuwon had not L.A.'s Mitch Kupchak taken care ofthat five minutes earlier. He had bumped and shoved Olajuwon until the Rocketscenter roughly elbowed him away. Kupchak shoved back, and Olajuwon startedswinging. Referee Jess Kersey then showed the best defense of the series,charging Olajuwon and driving him toward the L.A. bench, where that notedpeacemaker Maurice Lucas applied a headlock. For a moment it looked as though ahockey game had broken out. Olajuwon and Kupchak were ejected.
Breaking News | Real-Time Scores | Daily Analysis
• This week SI.comtakes a look at Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets' dominant rise through the NBApostseason. Scott Howard-Cooper examines three factors of the Nuggets' suddensuccess: Nen√™'s triumphant return from testicular cancer, Chris Andersen'sresurgence from a two-year ban for drug use and Chauncey Billups's timelyhomecoming. Also, Steve Aschburner weighs in on the delicate process of hiringan NBA G.M. and Chris Mannix analyzes how the Magic has tried to develop akiller instinct. Plus ...
• Nightly news andnotes from every playoff series
• Ian Thomsen'sfive thoughts on playoff officiating
How the top prospects are taking out insurance policies to protect their futurein case of injury
Putting Randy Johnson's 22-year career in perspective as he inches closer to300 wins
Kickin' It with Carl: An installment of the biweekly diary from the track withdriver Carl Edwards
Michael Farber and Allan Muir debate who is the front-runner to succeed RedWings center Henrik Zetterberg as the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy aspostseason MVP. Also get complete coverage of the Eastern and WesternConference finals, including predictions, breakdowns of key matchups andnightly roundtable discussions from our panel of NHL experts.
SI horse racingexpert Tim Layden weighs in on the big news of the 134th running of thePreakness Stakes—Calvin Borel's decision to get off Derby winner Mine That Birdand ride Kentucky Oaks' runaway winner Rachel Alexandra—provided she can securea starting spot.
"It was astunning choice that Borel viewed as a no-brainer," Layden writes."Borel stood outside Barn 36 at Churchill Downs and shrugged his shoulders.'I got no choice,' he said. 'This filly is the best horse in the country. She'sthe best horse I've ever been on.' Historians at the Daily Racing Form havesurmised that Borel would be the first jockey in Triple Crown history to winthe Kentucky Derby and take a different mount in the Preakness." FindLayden's full coverage of the Rachel Alexandra story, plus ...
• Gene Menez makeshis picks for the Preakness as racing looks for its first Triple Crown winnerin 31 years
• Mark Beechchecks in with live race-day coverage from Pimlico
• Photo gallery ofthe race and the event's happenings, on and off the track
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