More important to the Suns was the sublime performance of Johnson, the point guard who regained his old form in the playoffs. No Rocket guard could stop Johnson as he made his way to the bucket. He played the entire 48 minutes, shooting 18 of 24 from the floor and finishing with 43 points, his highest total in a playoff game, and nine assists. "When Kevin plays like that, you just get out of his way," Kleine said. "Go where he tells you to go and then just stand there and watch the master."
The Suns had other heroes. Barkley, who also played the whole game, bounced back with 26 points. Forward A.C. Green chipped in with 12 rebounds. And Schayes outplayed Olajuwon over the final three minutes, scoring five points and, with the help of most of his teammates, guarding the Houston center so tightly that the Dream could launch only two shots down the stretch.
Even with a 3-1 series edge, the Suns were not without worries. Olajuwon was averaging 29.3 points per game, and Phoenix didn't appear to have any convincing matchup answers. The Suns also were wondering how the Rockets had stolen their Thunder, as in Thunder Dan Majerle. During the two games in Houston, Majerle scored just three points in 53 minutes. And Phoenix knew it hadn't buried the Rockets yet: Beginning with the 1993 playoffs, Houston had faced elimination in eight games and won seven. As a reminder, Barkley wrote another message on the blackboard after Game 4: THEY WANT TO DIE. YOU HAVE TO KILL 'EM.
But as Barkley left the Summit, he clearly did not expect to return. The Chuckster stopped briefly to pose for a picture with some of the Rocket dancers. Drexler arrived on the scene and said, "Don't worry, Chuck, you can get that picture on Thursday." Responded Barkley: "These girls are smart. They know we're not coming back here."
Meanwhile, Johnson was left alone in the locker room, where he pointed out that he was sitting in the exact spot where his season had ended a year ago after the Suns' Game 7 defeat. "Last night I thought a lot about last year," he said, "and I felt that if we didn't win today, then it's, Here we go again. I'd like to think that history has finally taught our team something. I think we're much more humble than we were then."
Sounds like one board member didn't get the chairman's memo.