What If? Series: 1995 Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs

Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal and San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson were two of the best centers in the league in the mid-1990s. (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images)
Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal and San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson were two of the best centers in the league in the mid-1990s. (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Avery Johnson, San Antonio Spurs, Derek Harper, New York Knicks
Avery Johnson was one of the toughest player son a tough San Antonio Spurs team. (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Simulated Series

As we have been doing throughout our What If? series, we are going to simulate a series between the 1995 Orlando Magic and 1995 San Antonio Spurs using the What If Sports simulation engine.

I created rotations by using the minutes distribution from the 1995 Western Conference Finals for the Spurs and the 1995 Finals for the Magic.

Game 1 — Magic 108, Spurs 101 (ORL leads 1-0)

By this point in the Finals, depth gets thrown out the window. The Finals are really all about the stars and whatever extra you can get from role players is gravy. So the Magic exorcised some demons (or non-existent demons in this case) in Game 1.

Shaquille O’Neal scores 25 points and Dennis Scott scores 25 with three 3-pointers as the Magic held off the Spurs in the fourth quarter in Game 1. This is still an inexperienced and somewhat immature team after all. O’Neal fouled out and committed seven turnovers.

The Spurs closed to within three with about two minutes to play when Dennis Scott his a 3-pointer to extend the lead back out. They cut it to one with 40 seconds left. But — breath easy — Hardaway sank two free throws to extend the lead and Scott iced the game.

For good measure, Nick Anderson hit two free throws in the dying seconds after Sean Elliott missed a three to give the Magic the final margin.

Sean Elliott scored 34 points and David Robinson had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Spurs.

Related Story. Visit the 1995 Playoffs Video Vault. light

Game 2 — Magic 114, Spurs 98 (ORL leads 2-0)

The Orlando Magic pull off what the Houston Rockets were able to do in the real Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals, sweeping the first two games on the road, giving them three chances to win two on their home floor to win the championship.

Shaquille O’Neal responded from an uneven Game 1 with 31 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Anfernee Hardaway scored 21 points to go with 13 assists.

But special attention should go to Dennis Scott. He had 17 points on 4-for-8 3-point shooting. Another strong performance from the outside. In the actual NBA Finals in 1995, Scott made only 24.1 percent of his 3-point shots. That was a big reason why the Magic bowed out so easily.

Orlando took control in the second quarter and never really looked back. David Robinson scored 24 points on 8-for-19 shooting to lead the Spurs.

Game 3 — Magic 112, Spurs 98 (ORL leads 3-0)

David Robinson gave the Orlando Magic his best punch to try to avoid going into a 3-0 hole. He scored 36 points. He was trying a bit too hard with six turnovers.

But Shaquille O’Neal matched him step-for-step. O’Neal scored 35 points to go with 16 rebounds and four blocks. He stepped up in a big way to cancel out the Spurs’ big man. The Magic’s offensive power and balance did the rest.

Especially Scott’s five 3-pointers on his way to 19 points.

O’Neal dominated the fourth quarter to give the Magic cushion and defeat the Spurs. The raucous Orlando Arena crowd can smell a championship. The Spurs are on the ropes.

Game 4 — Spurs 106, Magic 104 (ORL leads 3-1)

There will be no sweep in this simulated series. The San Antonio Spurs will survive to play another game, eking out a win over the Orlando Magic in Game 4.

Sean Elliott’s 3-pointer with three minutes to go gave the Spurs the lead for good and Dennis Rodman and David Robinson scored after some stellar defense on Shaquille O’Neal to give the Spurs a seven-point lead they would not give up. The Magic scored late to make the score look closer.

Elliott scored 28 points and Robinson had 25 points to lead the Spurs. Shaquille O’Neal scored 39 points to go with 20 rebounds and Anfernee Hardaway had 31 points. But his six turnovers hurt. And the Magic sent the Spurs to the line for 25 free throws in the defeat.

Orlando’s offense was game and efficient. But the team made too many mistakes on defense, the Achilles heel of the 1995 Magic. They remain one step away from the title with one game left at the Orlando Arena.

1995 Finals Video Vault. light. Related Story

Game 5 — Magic 111, Spurs 99 (ORL wins 4-1)

The Orlando Magic celebrate their first NBA title on the Orlando Arena floor, defeating the San Antonio Spurs in five games.

The Magic jumped on the Spurs early with a 34-16 first quarter. Robinson struggled, making just 7 of 17 shots for 15 points. And the Orlando Magic found the balance to race ahead and keep the San Antonio Spurs at bay — much like they did to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Nick Anderson gets the glory, scoring 23 points. Dennis Scott completes a fantastic series with 20 points. Anfernee Hardaway had 20 points. And NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal scored 20 points to go with 14 rebounds.

The Magic shot 50.6-percent from the floor and give up just 42.5-percent shooting from the Spurs.

Orlando did give up its early lead. But San Antonio was grasping for straws. The Magic used halftime (unlike in Game 1 of the actual 1995 Finals) to regroup and push ahead. Keeping the Spurs from really threatening to win the title.