Ralph Sampson’s buzzer beater sent the Rockets to the NBA Finals on this date in 1986

Ralph Sampson caught the ball off an inbounds pass with one second left and somehow made an off-balance shot at the buzzer. The shot gave the Houston Rockets a 114-112 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a 4-1 series victory in the Western Conference Finals.

The shot stunned the defending champion Lakers, who were the top seed in the Western Conference. Game 1 went as planned for Los Angeles but Houston won the next four games.

Hakeem Olajuwon was brilliant for the Rockets all postseason, averaging 26.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in 20 playoff games. Houston relied on him throughout the series against the Lakers but couldn’t down the stretch in Game 5 after he was ejected for fighting Mitch Kupchak. He finished with 30 points in the game.

With Olajuwon ejected, the Rockets relied on Sampson, who also had an excellent postseason. He averaged 20 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in 20 postseason games. He finished with 29 points in Game 5.

The victory set up a matchup against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Boston won the series in six games and Larry Bird was named Finals MVP.

The Rockets went on to trade Sampson in 1987 but his miraculous shot for Houston will never be forgotten.

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