1995-96 Season

1995-96: Orlando Bullied
The 1995-96 Magic, behind the talented starting lineup of Shaquille O'Neal, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and Anfernee Hardaway, proved that they were indeed among the league's elite, and that the previous year's trip to the Finals was no fluke.

Orlando stormed to a 60-22 record, easily the best in the Atlantic Division. However, in the Eastern Conference race, the Magic was upstaged by the incredible 72-10 campaign of the Chicago Bulls, who were lifted by the acquisition of Dennis Rodman and the return of Michael Jordan. All year it appeared as if the two teams were on a collision course to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Magic got off to a 17-5 start, despite the absence of O'Neal who missed the first 22 games with a thumb injury. Hardaway picked up the slack and was named the league's Player of the Month for November. O'Neal, meanwhile, made up for lost time upon his return, and led the team to its third straight season of 50 or more wins. The Magic won four straight at the end of the season to post 60 wins for the first time in franchise history.

O'Neal finished 3rd in the league in scoring (26.6 ppg), 3rd in field goal percentage (.573) and 9th in blocked shots (2.13 bpg). Hardaway finished 6th in steals (2.02 spg) and 11th in scoring (21.7 ppg) and assists (7.1 apg). Scott, a lethal three-point marksman, had the best season of his career. In addition to setting personal bests in minutes, points, rebounds and assists, Scott notched a place in the league record books with 267 three-point field goals, a single season high.

As expected, Orlando dispatched Detroit and Atlanta to set up the matchup with Chicago. The two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1995, with Orlando prevailing four games to two, despite Jordan's return to the NBA. The rematch had all the makings of a classic. Jordan, O'Neal, Scottie Pippen, Hardaway, Rodman and Grant. In four games, it was over. The Bulls advanced, winning the four games by an average margin of 16.7 points. For the Magic, it marked the third straight year that their season ended in a postseason sweep. Grant, nursing an injured elbow, played in only one game of the series.

Adding injury to insult, the Magic were left to ponder a future without franchise center Shaquille O'Neal. The immensely popular All-Star, who had led their team from also-ran to title contender, signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers.