The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have combined for 91 games on Christmas Day, with Lakers about to add to that total tonight. The Rockets, meanwhile, have played in 8 such games, posting a 4-4 record. Let's rank them.
8. 1975 vs. the New Orleans Jazz
This was the first Christmas Day game for Rockets after relocating from San Diego. The Rockets took a 3-point lead into the final frame before giving up 33 points and falling in a 101-99 loss. Kevin Kunnert had a game-high 28 points for the Rockets and Rudy Tomjanovich added 23. Calvin Murphy scored 12 and went a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. And some guy named Pete Maravich scored 19 for New Orleans.
7. 1997 vs. the Utah Jazz
The Rockets were without Hakeem Olajuwon and it showed. Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, and John Stockton all dropped 20+ points and the Rockets allowed the Jazz to shoot 55% from the field. Kevin Willis scored 25 for the Rockets and Clyde Drexler dropped 15 points and grabbed 4 steals.
These two teams would meet a few months later in the Western Conference Finals, where the Jazz would luck their way into a 4-2 series win.
6. 1993 vs. the Phoenix Suns
The Rockets were crushed in a 111-91 loss in Phoenix. The Suns used a 37-18 second quarter to distance themselves from the Rockets and never looked back. Hakeem scored 27 and Robert Horry added 20. Besides that the Rockets laid an egg.
On the Phoenix side, Charles Barkley and eventual Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson combined for 74 points and the Suns shot 52% from the field.
Houston and Phoenix would meet in the Western Conference semi-finals. The Suns would take the first two games in Houston and lead to the Choke City headline. The Rockets would take 4 of the next 5 to take the series and eventually their first of two NBA titles. And that's how Clutch City came to be.
5. 1995 vs. the Orlando Magic
In a rematch of the 1995 NBA Finals, the Magic defeated the Rockets 92-90. Orlando overcame a 4-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and triumphed. Hakeem was typically brilliant with 30/12/6 but had little help as only Mark Bryant shot above 50% for the good guys.
For the Magic, all 5 starters finished in double figures, led by Shaq and Penny Hardaway each dropping 22 points. It was a small consolation for the Magic after getting swept six months earlier by the Rockets. Nick Anderson did not attempt a free throw.
4. 1967 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
This was the first ever televised Christmas Day game. The San Diego Rockets took on the Lakers, with the Rockets prevailing 104-101. Until tonight, it has been the only home game that the Rockets have ever had on Christmas Day.
Notable players in the game included Jerry West and Elgin Baylor for the Lakers and Pat Riley as a member of the Rockets.
3. 2012 vs. the Chicago Bulls
This game was close early and that's about it. Houston cruised in their first Christmas Day game in 9 years and defeated the Bulls 120-97. James Harden finished with 26, Chandler Parsons had 23, Omer Asik had 20 points and 18 rebounds, and Jeremy Lin put in 20 points to go with 11 assists
2. 2013 vs. the San Antonio Spurs
This game announced that the Rockets were for real. Having added Dwight Howard in the offseason, the Rockets won for the second time in less than a month in San Antonio. James Harden scored 28 points and Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons each added 21. Dwight finished with 15 points and 20 rebounds and Jeremy Lin finished with 11 points and 8 assists.
The Rockets fought off multiple advances from the Spurs in this one and eventually swept the team that would win the NBA Finals in June.
1. 2003 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were the favorites to win the NBA title in 2004. After having their run at a four-peat derailed by the San Antonio Spurs, they added Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the offseason before they took on the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day at Staples Center.
No full highlights exist from this game because the NBA doesn't want you to know that a 16-12 Rockets team upset the preeminent franchise 99-87. Houston blew a 13-point lead in the third quarter and actually went behind on three separate occasions. But after a Kobe Bryant layup tied the game at 77 with 9+ minutes left, the Rockets finished on a 22-10 run, punctuated by back-to-back three pointers by Cuttino Mobley and Moochie Norris.
Kobe and Shaq combined for 45, but the Rockets got 14 points off the bench from Maurice Taylor to go with 22 for Steve Francis and 18 points for both Jim Jackson and some random guy named Yao Ming.
Well, that's it folks. What are your favorite Rockets Christmas memories?