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Houston Rockets

This Date in NBA History (May 20): Mario Elie's 'Kiss of Death' completes Rockets 3-1 comeback vs. Suns in 1995 and more

On May 20th in 1995, Mario Elie knocked down a clutch three from the corner in the final seconds of Game 7 as the Houston Rockets sealed the win over the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Following the bucket, Elie blew the infamous "Kiss of Death" after the Rockets came back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Suns.

By doing so, they became only the fifth team in NBA history (at that time) and the first in 13 years to overcome a 3-1 series deficit. The win also snapped a streak of 20 straight previous wins by the home team in a winner-takes-all Game 7 of a playoff series.

The Rockets rallied behind the star duo of Hakeem Olajuwon (29 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) and Clyde Drexler (29 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), to overcome a 46-point game from Suns' guard Kevin Johnson. Elie only had eight points in that decisive game but it was the dagger that gave the Rockets - the defending champions - a 115-114 win.

After eliminating the Suns, the Rockets took care of business in the next two rounds - defeating the San Antonio Spurs in six games in the Conference Finals and then sweeping the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. The Rockets became only the fifth NBA franchise (after the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, and Bulls) to win back-to-back championships.

That wasn't all. The franchise's 1995 title was unique in a multitude of ways.

They were the first team in NBA history to defeat four 50-win teams en route to the title. Entering the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 45-37 record, they became the first team to win the NBA Championship as a sixth seed.

Other notable events on May 20th

  • In 1979, Larry Wright, a reserve for the Washington Bullets, hit two free throws with no time on the clock to give his team a 99-97 Game 1 victory in the NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics. Wright finished Game 1 with 26 points in just 23 minutes, but the Bullets, who were the defending champions, eventually lost the Finals in five games.
  • In 1996, Michael Jordan was named MVP for the 1995-96 season - the fourth of his career. En route to earning 109 votes out of a possible 113 and leading the Bulls to a then-NBA record 72 wins, he averaged 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.20 steals per game.

Notable playoff eliminations on May 20th

  • In 2019, Golden State Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0 in the Western Conference Finals, becoming only the second franchise since the Boston Celtics of the 1960s to make it to five consecutive NBA Finals. In their five-year Finals run, this was the third series victory against the Trail Blazers - two of which ended in a sweep. The Warriors, in total, recorded six series sweeps during their five-year Finals run.
  • In 2005, the Phoenix Suns eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals with a 130-126 Game 6 victory. It was the franchise's first Conference Finals appearance since 1993. After playing the previous six seasons with the Mavs, this was the first series against his former team for Steve Nash and he averaged 30.3 points, 12.0 assists, and 6.5 rebounds on 55.0% shooting.
  • In 2004, the Detroit Pistons eliminated the New Jersey Nets, the two-time Conference Champions, with a 90-69 Game 7 victory in the Conference Semifinals.

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