Basketball: Houston in control of the mission

THE Houston Rockets have been America's NBA Champions for the past two seasons. Now, to nobody's surprise, they can call themselves champions of the world after winning the first unofficial world club title here last night, beating the Italian side, Buckler Bologna, 126-112.

The McDonald's Championship brought together the six national league winners of the United States, Italy, Spain, Australia, England and Israel as part of the NBA's grand scheme for global expansion. In their semi, Houston had left the Australians from Perth overawed with a 44- point victory that seemed to be amassed with a minimum of effort. Against the excellent Italians yesterday, the Rockets at least looked extended at times against a side that included former NBA veteran Orlando Woolridge and the gifted Croatian Arijan Komazec.

They were the principal characters behind a first-quarter effort that saw Bologna lead without interruption for over seven minutes. With Woolridge - 35 years old and clearly revelling in his reunion with former friends and foes - in scintillating form, that lead stretched to seven points, and the Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovic, practically a waxwork model during the semi-final canter, was not only on his feet but agitated with it.

This after all, was the first time NBA champions had been forced to defend the League's record of never having lost to foreign opposition. They had also entered the tournament without the injured leader, the 7ft Hakeem Olajuwon, considered to be comfortably the best player on the planet at this time.

Hakeem, who underwent elbow surgery last week, watched from the bench in street clothes as Bologna shot into a 17-10 lead. Had he considered putting his kit on? "I didn't bring my shoes," he grinned afterwards. "But I knew all we had to do was settle down and raise the intensity. We respond so well under pressure so I wasn't worried."

Hakeem was correct; talent came through. Sam Cassell, a young playmaker who would be a strong contestant for the title of the world's most confident sportsman, scored 12 points in seven minutes as the Rockets built a 64-57 half-time lead.

In the third quarter Houston demoralised their opponents. Clyde Drexler, who will be paid $9.8m [pounds 6.4m] for his troubles this season, and Robert Horry, one of the league's young stars in waiting, were unstoppable. To use the parlance of the NBA, it was show-time and Bologna were 21 points down.

It was a tribute to the Italians that Tomjanovich kept most of his key players on until the end. "This has been a positive experience," he said. "Coming here as the first champions to play in this tournament I have to say to the people of London that their hospitality has been warm and they have made us feel welcome."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee