);
Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder: A tale of two franchises who have a long history

#Russ Harden

Christmas is the season of giving; however, the Rockets and Thunder rivalry is the exact opposite. The teams can't help but take from one another. The Rockets and Thunder's drama goes back to the days when Oklahoma City was still in the northwest and known as the Seattle Supersonics. The Sonics played spoiler in the very first postseason matchup.

The Rockets made their first NBA Finals appearance in 1981. Houston fell victim to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics as Bird won his first of three titles.

Houston was poised and ready to make a return the following season. The only thing that got in Houston's efforts to avenge their loss to Boston was a pesky Seattle team coached by Lenny Wilkens and led by a combination of Gus Williams and Jack Sikma. The Sonics eliminated Houston in a best-of-three first round matchup in 1982.

Then, the Rockets found themselves back in the NBA Finals in 1986, losing to Bird and the Celtics once more. Somehow history found a way to repeat itself as the Sonics halted the Rockets' efforts to return to the NBA Finals the following season and defeated Houston in the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals.

The next notable matchup took place in 1993 when the Sonics were charging at the hands of George Karl, Shawn Kemp, and Gary Payton. The Rockets meanwhile were in the prime Hakeem Olajuwon years and were aided by a rookie from Alabama, Robert Horry. In fact, the very first display of "Big Shot Bob" took place in the 4th quarter of game 7 when Horry gave the Rockets a brief lead in the final minute of regulation.

However, Kemp and Payton would win the battle and go on to the Western Conference Finals.

The Rockets would go on to win two straight titles without ever having to face Seattle. When Houston met up again with Seattle in 1996, it was a sweep and the SuperSonics ended the Rockets' hopes to threepeat and ruin any potential Hakeem Olajuwon/Michael Jordan Finals matchup. The Rockets lost every single playoff matchup against Seattle until they traded for Charles Barkley in 1997.

Barkley actually guaranteed Houston would win the series when it was tied at three games apiece saying quote:

"I didn't guarantee a win… I just said we would win Game 7. I don't guarantee anything but death and taxes and politicians are going to lie."

After the Rockets finally got over the hump against the Sonics, the two teams didn't face each other again in the postseason until 2013 after the Sonics had been rebranded as the Oklahoma City Thunder. This matchup saw the return of James Harden to OKC as a visitor for the first time in the postseason.

The Thunder outlasted the Rockets in six games but not before losing Russell Westbrook to a season-ending injury.

The Rockets were able to contain Westbrook in their next matchup as he was on the eve of winning MVP.

The two franchises have plenty of history ahead of them as Westbrook and Harden don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

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