In part two of my four-part series about the 1994 championship run, I spoke to Matt Thomas, currently the host of the Matt Thomas show on Sports Talk 790, which is one of the best sports talk shows in Houston, and the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Houston Rockets. In 1994 Matt Thomas was the PA announcer for the Rockets.
As luck would have it, 1994 and 1995 were Thomas's first years with the Rockets, and what a first couple of years they had to have been. Thomas was in the arena for the two games that led to Choke City and, of course, Game 7s versus the Suns and the Knicks. Here is my Q/A with Matt Thomas.
After the Rockets knocked out the Blazers 3-1, what was the atmosphere like around Houston and in the arena going into that second-round matchup with the Suns?
This was the series we were all looking forward to a lot. These teams had two of the greatest players of all time that were still chasing a title. It wasn’t going to be easy because Charles Barkley was playing at his best, so home court advantage was likely going to make a difference.
The infamous Choke City headline appeared in the Houston Chronicle after Game 2. The Rockets had an 18-point lead in Game 1 before blowing the lead, and in Game 2, they went up by 20. What was the arena like when the Rockets went up 20 and then as the lead slowly slipped away?
The lead was never going to be big enough. At the same time, we were thinking history couldn’t repeat itself so quickly. When it got under 10, we then thought, “Here we go again.”
The Rockets were down double digits in the first half of Game 3, and Vernon Maxwell went nuclear in the second half. Is that second half by Vernon a top three second half by a single player in Rockets history?
With Max’s performance, it’s hard to say if it was top three. I can remember so many big things. All the Olajuwon baskets and blocked shots, the huge three-point shots from Smith and Horry, and the key plays made from Cassell off the bench.
How were you feeling as the Rockets PA announcer at the time, knowing you would be part of Game 1 of the NBA Finals?
I was a nervous wreck. Knowing my lineups were going to be heard nationally on NBC made it extra special.
Were you confident that the Rockets were the better team in their NBA Finals matchup, or in your mind, was it a toss-up?
It was a complete tossup. This was finally supposed to be the year for the Knicks and Ewing’s first NBA title. Meanwhile, the Rockets overcame Choke City and later dominated a great Jazz team. If these two teams played a best of 14 series, it would come down to the final game
Want to ask you about the infamous Game 5 that was interrupted by the OJ Simpson chase. As you are watching the chase slowly take over the attention span of the nation during the game, what is going through your mind at the time?
Finally, the Rockets get the stage to themselves and this chase is getting a lot of airtime. The split screen of the chase and the game was never seen at the time. Frankly, we were confused what was really going on at the time.
How loud was the crowd in Game 7 after Maxwell made the three that put the Knicks away?
Simply put, the lid came off the Summit. The championship drought was finally about to end.
Final question. Can you let our readers know (especially the younger readers) how amazing the parade and Astrodome celebration was after Game 7?
I was a part of the Astrodome celebration announcing the players one by one. Definitely a career highlight. The moment wasn’t matched again until the Astros won the 2018 World Series.
As you can see in the first two parts of the series, there is a lot of different perspectives from players who were on the court and members of the Rockets organization. Thank you to Matt Thomas for taking the time to answer my questions!
Make sure next week to check out part three of the series. I talk to another member of the 1994 championship team to get their thoughts on that great championship run.