Magic Classic Wins: Game 7 of 1995 Eastern Conference Finals

ORLANDO - To many former Orlando Magic players, June 4, 1995 should be a date memorable and synonymous for the franchise qualifying for the NBA Finals for the first time. Instead, there’s another enduring memory from that night that most think of when they recall Orlando defeating the Indiana Pacers in a pressure-packed Game 7.

``That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd for a basketball game,’’ former Magic guard Penny Hardaway said a few years back when he was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. ``When I think back to that game, I always think about how loud the Amway (Arena) was. The fans were into it early and they never stopped cheering all night.’’

Hardaway and the Magic certainly gave their fans plenty to cheer about that night as Orlando rode an emotional wave all game long and crushed Indiana 105-81 in that Game 7. The emotion-packed victory put a Magic franchise in just its sixth year in existence into the Finals – the second-fastest such feat in modern history. At the time, the Magic also joined the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers as the only franchise to reach the NBA Finals after having never won a playoff series before that season.

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida has used much of April and May to show select classic games from the Magic’s glorious, 31-year history. Fox Sports Florida is re-airing Orlando’s four victories from that 1995 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers. Games 1, 2 and 5 were televised earlier this week, while Game 7 will re-air on Saturday at 7 p.m. The telecast will be replayed on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Orlando came into the Game 7 highly motivated after getting embarrassed 123-96 at Indiana’s Market Square Arena in Game 6. The result of Game 7 shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the Magic and Pacers played one another 11 times during the 1994-95 regular season and playoffs and the home team won all 11 games.

Superstar center Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando’s leading scorer in all four of its victories in the series, led the way for the Game 7 victory with 25 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. O’Neal dominated and decimated Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis and the Pacers inside throughout the series, averaging 27.3 points on 66.1 percent shooting.

Guard Dennis Scott drilled five 3-pointers and had 19 points in the deciding Game 7. Scott, who had major shooting problems in the previous series against Chicago, rebounded and hit 28 of 65 3-point shots (43 percent) against the Pacers.

Hardaway had 17 points and four assists, while Horace Grant scored 11 of his 16 points in Orlando’s run-away third quarter. After squandering a 24-12 start to the game and allowing the Pacers to creep within 52-45 by halftime, Orlando turned the game into a laugher in the third period with a 28-18 spurt that allowed it to push its lead out to as much as 19 points. The Magic made 11 of 17 shots in the third period, while the Pacers connected on just five of 17 shots.

Nick Anderson had 12 points, seven assists, three steals and two 3-pointers in the deciding Game 7, but his greatest contribution was the defense that he played on Indiana star guard Reggie Miller in the series finale. Just two days after scoring 36 points in a Game 6 victory for Indiana, Miller managed just 12 points in Game 7 because of the sticky defense applied by Anderson and reserve guard Brian Shaw. Miller, who averaged 25.9 points with 25 made 3-point shots in the series, hit just five of 13 shots in Game 7.

Magic reserve forward Jeff Turner, who drilled two second-quarter 3-pointers and also contributed three assists and two blocked shots in the Game 7, has fond memories of Orlando’s 4-3 win in the series because of the continuous high level of play between the two teams. In addition to remembering the Game 7 for the ear-splitting noise inside Amway Arena, Turner believes those 1995 Eastern Conference Finals were an all-timer for true basketball fans.

``In that Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers, that might have been one of the greatest series of basketball in playoff history,’’ opined Turner, who appeared in all seven games and averaged 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.9 minutes a night. ``Each team won on their home court and there were so many crazy games in that series. Luckily, we found a way to win it in Game 7.’’

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