Fresh off of sweeping the Nuggets and beating the LA Lakers, the team with the best record in the league and the league (deserving) MVP was ready to take out the defending champions.
During the regular season, Robinson averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game and shot 53 percent from the floor. The Spurs, who had dominated the Rockets in their meetings that season, were trying to get to the NBA Finals, but had to go through the defending champs in a best of seven series first.
Kenny Smith says he was sitting next to Olajuwon after the speech and asked The Dream if he was upset that he wasn’t recognized.
“I remember sitting next to him and going, ‘Yo, that didn’t make you upset?” “Because it made me upset that he didn’t say it.’ We’re about to play them, and Hakeem won the MVP last year, and you’re not acknowledging the fact that he’s there, and that he’s a great player, and had a great season. I was upset. But Hakeem, in true Hakeem fashion, said, ‘No, he deserves the award, Kenny. He deserves the award.’ Then he goes out and puts on a show.”
The Rockets and Hakeem The Dream were ready to end the Spurs dream season right from the start of the Western Conference Finals: The Rockets pulled off a one-point Game 1 win in San Antonio and a convincing 10-point win in Game 2 behind 41 points and 16 boards from Olajuwon. The Spurs got some payback by taking Game 3 in H-Town, despite another 40 point performance by Olajuwon, and then beating them again in Game 4, while holding Hakeem to 9 of 24 shooting.
In Game 5, Hakeem went into MVP mode and pulled out every move from his book of moves and added a few more chapters as he embarrassed the Admiral play after play. The final result was a 21 point victory for the Rockets and Hakeem finishing with 42/9/8 to Robinson’s 22 & 12.
“A lot of teams will still decide to double Hakeem,” Smith said, “and they said no. We felt, why should we be so offensively aggressive if Hakeem has his space to work? So, he worked. He worked to the fullest degree.”
Game 6 was close, but Houston won the series 4-2, capping off one of the great performances in NBA Playoffs history. Hakeem finished with 39 points, 17 boards and 5 blocks as Robinson struggled to reach 19 points on 6 of 17 shooting; only two of Robinson’s six field goals were made against Hakeem. Olajuwon finished the series averaging 35.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, five assists, and 4.2 blocks. Robinson averaged a respectable 23.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks, but the MVP was completely overshadowed in the series. That’s how good Olajuwon was against the Spurs. “I had never seen a performance like that from one individual,” Smith said. Olajuwon would go on to win his second-straight NBA title and Finals MVP. He eventually got his trophy – even if that trophy wasn’t a regular-season MVP award.