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Pressure Is on Both Sonics, Rockets Tonight

May 14, 1987|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — The Lakers are waiting for somebody, so who's going to crumple under all this pressure?

The Seattle SuperSonics and the Houston Rockets are still trying to decide which one will play the Lakers for the Western Conference title, but right now in this semifinal series, you can't tell the players without a barometer.

An area of high pressure is shifting back and forth between the SuperSonics and Rockets, but nobody is completely sure who's got it the worst.

Maybe that will become clear tonight in Game 6.

"The pressure moves over to them now because I can't believe they want to come back to Houston for Game 7," Rocket Coach Bill Fitch said after a 112-107 victory Tuesday night.

Seattle forward Maurice Lucas pointed out that this hardly seems fair since the SuperSonics still lead the series 3-2.

"We're still the underdogs, we're still ahead and that's no pressure on us," he said.

No, the pressure actually belongs on the Rockets, Lucas insisted.

"They still got to beat us," he reasoned.

But maybe the Rockets are too strange to be scared. Houston forward Cedric Maxwell said the Rockets don't know anything about pressure anyway. When the Rockets lost three of the first four games in the series and flew back to Houston, the Rockets didn't just fall behind, they also fell asleep.

"These guys are the quietest team I've ever been around," Maxwell said. "They take a four-hour flight and don't say a word. They're a stewardess' dream."

There isn't much worrying the SuperSonics, though. They didn't close out the Rockets when they had a chance in Game 5, but they seemed to be satisfied that climbing out of a 21-point hole as they did and forcing the Rockets to win in the last minute is a pretty fair indication of how they'll play in Game 6.

The Rockets needed a triple-double from Rodney McCray (24 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) and 26 points from Akeem Olajuwon to force Game 6, which begins at 8:30 p.m. in the Seattle Center Coliseum.

Coach Bernie Bickerstaff thought his SuperSonics fared remarkably well considering the fact that Dale Ellis played only nine minutes in the first half because of fouls and Seattle still might have won if Ellis had not missed an open 18-footer with 26 seconds left.

"The Silent Assassin was silent," Bickerstaff said.

So just who's feeling the pressure?

"If they want to give it to us, we'll accept it," Bickerstaff said. "It doesn't matter. It's all verbiage."

Lucas arched an eyebrow when asked if all this talk about pressure was just another con game.

"You're asking me?" he said in mock surprise. "You're asking the wrong con man," he said.

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