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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

£25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

Recruitment Genius: Fabric Inspector

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Fabric Inspector is required to join an awar...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Project Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities & Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Testing Manager

£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash