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Tonight's Series Preview

May 05, 1997|MARK HEISLER


* Season series: Rockets, 3-1.

Ask George Karl, things change.

The Sonics used to have the Rockets' number, even when Houston was on its back-to-back title runs and Seattle was getting knocked out in the first round annually. With Karl's trapping, rotating defenses confusing Hakeem Olajuwon, the Sonics went 16-3 against the Rockets for five seasons and swept them out of last spring's second round, 4-0.

That changed the day Charles Barkley showed up in Houston. Now the Sonics have two low-post players they have to double-team and they can't keep Barkley off the boards. Barkley averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds in the four games. The Sonics' only win came with Clyde Drexler out.

The Rockets had a dream first-round series, a no-sweat sweep of the Minnesota Timberwolves, perfect for an old team that needs rest.

The Sonics had a nightmare season and had to rally from 1-2, winning Game 4 in Phoenix, to escape the runty Suns just to get this far.

Prediction: Rockets, 4-2. Terry Cummings at center vs. Hakeem? I don't think so. The Rockets will put the Sonics out of their season-long misery.

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