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O'Neal gets respect from All-Star center

First, Hakeem Olajuwon slowed down Shaquille O'Neal, then he praised him.

Olajuwon held O'Neal, the NBA's leading scorer, to 19 points in a rugged match of centers Tuesday night, leading the Rockets to a 97-85 victory that snapped the Magic's franchise-record, seven-game winning streak.

Olajuwon held O'Neal well below his 28.7 average, but talked more of the Magic center than his performance.

"Any guy who can move like that and carry himself is unstoppable," Olajuwon said. "What he's done already is just the beginning. He's just playing on athletic ability and he's leading the league in scoring. He's developing so fast.

"He's the best right now, what he's doing is unbelievable," Olajuwon said. "I wonder what he'll be doing in a couple of years. He gives me more trouble than anyone else.

"When he gets the ball under the basket, I pray he misses because he's so big he can't be stopped."

One way to stop him might be to foul as O'Neal shot only 3-for-12 from the free-throw line Tuesday.

Olajuwon had 26 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots and convinced O'Neal he still has a few tricks to learn.

"He (Olajuwon) is so quick and his fadeaway is just unstoppable," O'Neal said. "Nothing Hakeem does surprises me because I have seen him do everything. His years and experience are the difference."

The victory ended a two-game losing streak for the Rockets, both losses to the Utah Jazz. Otis Thorpe had 19 rebounds to lead Houston, which outrebounded Orlando 54-42.

"I couldn't be prouder the way things have been going," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "To come out after (back-to-back losses), I thought our defensive and offensive was as good as it's been all year."

Rookie Sam Cassell out of Florida State was a big reason for Houston's offensive push. He came off the bench and scored all 16 of his points in the second half. He was scoreless until 1:19 remained in the third period.