10 more classic Orlando Magic games to watch (1990-95 edition)

Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal made the Orlando Magic in 1995. (Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dan)
Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal made the Orlando Magic in 1995. (Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dan) /
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The Finals Run

February 26, 1995: The Steal, Part 1

24. 105. 38. Final. 103

Obviously, when we talk about “The Steal” in 1995, we are talking about one play and one play only. On April 28, you can watch that game (assumedly in its entirety, the national broadcast of that game was cut short with the second game of a triple-header running long). You can also watch that game now in our Video Vault.

But even I forgot about the prequel to this classic game, until the Magic themselves reminded me of this exciting finish. This was not the first steal against the Bulls that season.

In another nationally televised game in February — before Michael Jordan famously announced, “I’m back.” — the Magic faced off against the Bulls. Orlando had the best record in the East at the time, but everyone was still looking to test the young team. The Bulls were still a measuring stick around the league.

And the odds were stacked against this team.

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  • Shaquille O’Neal was out serving a one-game suspension. Horace Grant missed the game with back spasms. Veteran backup point guard Brian Shaw was also out with an injury. The Magic were down three key pieces.

    Then the trailed the entire second half. Until the end.

    In a tie game, Nick Anderson hounded Toni Kukoc, forcing him to try to spin away. He lost the ball and Anfernee Hardaway picked it up, racing down to the other end of the floor and dunking it with less than a second left to secure the win.

    "“‘Penny shot down the court like a deer, and I thought, ‘No one is going to catch him, not even the clock,’ ” Magic forward Dennis Scott told the Orlando Sentinel after the game."

    There are some games that let you know a team is serious about contending. This was that game for the Magic. They had all the odds stacked against them in a meaningful game and they stepped up to the plate to defend their home court.

    Hardaway scored a season-high 39 points proving he could carry the team — as he would have to with O’Neal injured early in the 1996 season.

    This win can get easily forgotten with the other great battles the Magic had with the Bulls, but this one should be on your list.

    Extended highlights can be found in our Video Vault.

    April 28, 1995: The First Playoff Win

    124. 38. Final. 77. 18

    Let’s make this story a bit more personal.

    I was six years old during the Orlando Magic’s 1995 Playoff run. Because both Games 1 and 2 of the 1994 series were played on weekdays, my parents did not let me attend either Playoff game for the Magic’s first postseason appearance. I was bitterly disappointed, but I did not know how to fight it (nor probably could I).

    So I remember vividly walking into the building for Game 1 of the 1995 First-Round series against the Boston Celtics. There was a different buzz to the arena from a typical game — already pretty exciting for a six-year-old anyway. The Magic had the bunting inside to signify this was a playoff game. They blew up giant inflatable basketballs to put on the nodes outside the Orlando Arena.

    It had all the bells and whistles.

    But the question for the Magic was whether they would show up. Yes, they had the best record in the Eastern Conference and they were facing one of the worst playoff teams in NBA history — the Boston Celtics won just 36 games that year. But the Magic were completely unproven. Plenty of people still had their doubts about this young team.

    They put a lot of doubts to rest in that first game, blowing the doors off the O-Rena with a 40-point victory.

    It was a game where everything worked for the Magic. There may not be a better playoff performance from start to finish. And it was a game every Magic fan simply celebrated from start to finish.

    The Celtics would shock the Magic in Game 2 of the series, putting the young team under pressure. But they too would rise to that occasion.

    May 5, 1995: The Garden is Closed

    38. Final. 92. 18. 95

    The Orlando Magic got a much tougher challenge from the Boston Celtics in their first-round series than anyone anticipated. The team steamrolled through Game 1 but had to go to Boston needing to take one of the two just to keep the series alive to head back to Orlando.

    Instead, the Magic showed extreme poise and took care of business to finish the series in four. And as Shaquille O’Neal said after the game to the Orlando Sentinel:

    "“We played great ‘D’ down the stretch. The Boston Garden is now officially closed. You can put that one in the history books.”"

    The Magic were the last team to win in the venerated Boston Garden. Nick Anderson would say they can finally tear the “dump” down. It was definitely an old and creaky building.

    The clinching game was no cakewalk, however.

    Dominique Wilkins and Sherman Douglas hit big shots to close the deficit. But Orlando’s size proved too much. Shaquille O’Neal scored 25 points to go with 13 rebounds and Horace Grant added 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Magic were able to hold the Celtics off and avoid a do-or-die game.

    Orlando took care of its business to win its first playoff series. Even if the team had to sweat it out in the notoriously hot Boston Garden to do so. It was a sign of the team’s increasing maturity and poise.

    You can watch the full game in our Video Vault.

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    Any other classic games you would like to mention? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out our Video Vault for classic highlights and full games!