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The Original: Despite earning the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets won their second straight NBA title in 1994-95 when they swept the young, athletic Orlando Magic. The Rockets, with Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler leading the way, had become the dominant NBA team in Michael Jordan's absence.
The Problem: The following year, the Rockets returned pretty much the same team and were expected to win the West once again, which would set them up for a showdown with Jordan and the Bulls in the Finals. The Rockets were injury-plagued all year long, but still managed to finish with a 48-34 record, one game better than the previous year.
Poised for another epic playoff run, this time as the No. 5 seed, they defeated the No. 4-seed L.A. Lakers, 3-1, in the first round. The Rockets' age and injury problems became apparent, however, in the Western Conference Semifinals when a 33-point thumping at the hands of the SuperSonics in Game 1 set the tone for the series. The Rockets went on to be swept and instead it was the Sonics who met the Bulls in the Finals.
Trilogy?: The Rockets reloaded for the 1996-97 campaign, picking up Charles Barkley, who had won the NBA MVP four seasons earlier. The combination seemed to work for the regular season, when the Rockets finished 57-25. In a rematch with the Sonics in the conference semis, the Rockets earned redemption with a seven-game victory. They couldn't keep the momentum going in the conference finals, however, when they lost to the Utah Jazz in six games.