Lakers–Rockets Rivalry - 1980s


The two met in the first round of the 1981 NBA Playoffs, where the Lakers were the defending NBA champions led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to face the Rockets, led by Hall of Famer Moses Malone, who barely reached the playoffs with a 40-42 record. The Rockets won Game 1 111-107, but the Lakers won Game 2 111-106. Houston won Game 3 in L.A. 89-86 in one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. The Rockets went on an improbable run to the NBA Finals before losing to the Celtics. They remain the only team with a losing record to appear in the NBA Finals.

The two met again in the 1986 Western Conference Finals where the Lakers were again the defending NBA champions and faced the Rockets led by the "Twin Towers" of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. Unlike 1981, Houston was a formidable foe, winning 51 games and the Midwest Division title. After the Lakers won Game 1, the Rockets won 4 straight to eliminate the Lakers in 5. With the game tied at 112 and 1 second left, Ralph Sampson made a 12-foot no-look off-balance miracle jumper at the buzzer to give the Rockets their second trip to the NBA Finals. The Rockets would lose to the Celtics again in 6.

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