In the end, there was but one Tower standing and its name was Ralph Sampson. If his non-turnaround, half-batted, half-thrown game-winner at 0:00 was a little unorthodox, ask the Rockets if they care.
"He had a man in front of him, a man behind him and a second to shoot the ball," said Rockets Coach Bill Fitch after Sampson's shot gave the Rockets' a 114-112 victory Wednesday night and the West Conference final.
"And he wasn't being graded on form. There were no gymnastics involved."
"I was happy to see him throw up a bad shot, over his shoulder," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who'd been the man behind him. "And then the darn thing went in."
"It was a miracle," said Pat Riley. "He didn't even see the basket. You just can't beat fate."
So Sampson, the man who could never get his Virginia team into the NCAA Finals, has gotten his Rockets team into the NBA finals. Better late than never.
"My greatest experience in basketball," Sampson said. "The play was to go down low, post up, try to get the ball and shoot it. I just caught it and threw it up."
The points were his 28th and 29th of the night. He scored 11 of them in the last 5:14 after Akeem Olajuwon was ejected for fighting with Mitch Kupchak.
A few minutes before that, Sampson had had his own near-go with Maurice Lucas. That was broken up by Olajuwon, who picked Sampson up bodily and carried him half-way across the court.
Sampson: "It was just a very physical game. Both teams wanted to win real bad. Lucas is a very physical-type player. And we are not going to take a lot of stuff from a lot of people."
Fitch: "It's gonna happen guys, it's gonna happen. L.A. had fouls to give and they had Kupchak out there. I'm not saying anybody did anything dirty but you got a guy giving 2-3 fouls and tempers are going to get short.
"The trade (Olajuwon and Kupchak getting ejected together)," he said laughing. "I wouldn't make it. Any GM who made it, they'd hang him. And I love Kupchak. He plays his role good.
"I thought Jess Kersey (the referee who tackled Olajuwon into the crowd) did a great job. You've got two heavyweights going in there in the blue corner, and we were in the red corner. Lucas has always had the the reputation of a hatchetman but he was one of the cooler heads out there. You need some of those."
Riley: "The Rockets kicked it up to a higher gear after that. Ralph played incredible."