30 November 1996. Houston Rockets 103, Washington Bullets 99 (record: 7-8)
Game leaders: Webber (24 points), Howard, Muresan (9 rebounds), Strickland (11 assists)
Then there are the Houston Rockets. They had a 14-1 record coming into the game, led by 3 future All Stars. (Though Drexler got tossed in the 4th quarter, and was having a horrible night otherwise.) And in this game, as Charles Barkley was holding forth on before and after the game, experience showed up the youth.
The Bullets had a 10 point lead with 5-1/2 minutes left, but they let it slip away as the Rockets got easy transition baskets down the stretch. It didn't hurt that Hakeem Olajuwon showed up late to carry the Rockets to this win. And the cagey veteran Barkley drawing the late foul to stake the Rockets to a 3-point lead with under 10 seconds left.
Now, it may be me, but I think Lynam's coaching blew it in this game. In the 4th quarter, the Bullets insisted on trying to post Howard on the smaller Mario Elie, but Elie was fighting back physically and the matchup wasn't working. However, Muresan had shown throughout the game that if he got the ball in the paint, Olajuwon was unable to stop him. Further, the Bullets waited too long (IMO) to insert Muresan back in the lineup in the 4th quarter, when the Rockets tried to make their first run. (Of course, there's that line item that said Muresan played 34 minutes in the game nonetheless, but with 4 rest days coming up, he could afford more minutes.)
What Can Lynam Do?
The man in the middle, who is responsible for helping this team of mucho talent mix and mature together, is Jim Lynam. Can he do it?
Also we find out after the game that Olajuwon suffered his second bout of the month of cardiac arrhythmia, but was allowed to go back on the court to beat the Bullets. The doctors say it is not life or career threatening; let's hope that it's so. Olajuwon is such a beautiful player on the court--one-of-a-kind.