Magic Classic Wins: Games 5 & 6 of 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals

Fox Sports Florida will broadcast these wins on Saturday, May 2 at 5 and 7 p.m.
by John Denton

ORLANDO - On Sunday night, ESPN’s ``The Last Dance’’ docuseries about the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990’s will go into great detail about Horace Grant’s frustrations while playing there and ultimately his messy divorce from the franchise.

On Saturday night, Fox Sports Florida’s ``Magic Classics’’ series will show how Grant went back to Chicago and got the ultimate revenge against Michael Jordan and the Bulls while helping lead Orlando to the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.

Grant, who won three titles with the Bulls from 1991-93 before signing with the Magic as a free agent in July of 1994, was the hero of Game 5 and got conquering hero treatment following Game 6 in Chicago when Orlando ushered the Bulls out of the 1995 playoffs. As it turns out, it was the final time in Jordan’s illustrious Hall of Fame career that one of his teams was defeated in the playoffs – and no one enjoyed it more than the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Grant.

``We knew Ho Grant was going to come around in that series because he was just as fired up playing against the Bulls as I was being a Chicago kid,’’ recalled Magic forward Nick Anderson, another of the Orlando stars from that 1995 second-round playoff series. ``That was Horace’s former team and he wanted to prove something to them.’’

With the NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida has used much of April to show select classic games from the Magic’s glorious, 31-year history. Fox Sports Florida is re-airing Orlando’s four victories over Chicago in the 1995 playoffs. Games 5 (5 p.m.) and 6 (7:30 p.m.) will air on Saturday – a day prior to Episodes 5 and 6 of ESPN’s ``The Last Dance.’’

With that playoff series tied at 2-2 after Jordan had pumped in 26 games in Game 4 in Chicago, the back-and-forth grudge match shifted back to Central Florida and a noisy Orlando Arena. And it didn’t take long into that Game 5 to show the strategy of then-Bulls head coach Phil Jackson.

``You could tell early from the game plan that they were going to make Horace hit shots,’’ said Jeff Turner, Orlando’s reserve forward behind Grant in the 1994-95 season. ``That was Horace’s old team, and Phil Jackson had come up with a game plan that they were going to double-team Shaq (O’Neal) off of Horace and Horace stepped up time and time again when they left him open.’’

That strategy seemed somewhat foolish considering that Grant had been solid throughout the early stages of the series while making 32 of his first 47 shots in the first four games. In that Game 5, Grant led Orlando back from a 50-43 halftime deficit by drilling 10 of his 13 shots overall for 24 points. Not only did Grant chip in 11 rebounds, but he badly outplayed the forward that the Bulls had replaced him with – Toni Kukoc (10 points on two-of-six shooting).

``We knew that elbow jump shot, that baseline jumper and those pick-and-pop shots were going to come around because those were Horace’s shots all season,’’ remembered Anderson, who had four points, three rebounds and three assists that night on May 16, 1995. ``Horace came through for us just at the right time in Game 5.’’

When Turner thinks back to playing alongside of Grant in Orlando, he is reminded of a high-IQ basketball player who always made winning plays and someone who was willing to do the dirty work in games.

``Horace was such a terrific gamer,’’ Turner recalled. ``My thing that I always remember about Horace was that he was not a practice guy, but when the lights came on and it was game time, that guy was ready. He knew the game plan and he was really special when it came to big games.’’

Undoubtedly, the basketball world expected a big game out of Jordan in Game 6 in Chicago with the Magic suddenly leading 3-2. Instead, Jordan had his worst game of the series (24 points, eight-of-19 shooting and six turnovers) and the Magic swamped the Bulls under a hail of 3-pointers.

In that Game 6, O’Neal (27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals) dominated inside and Magic sharpshooters Penny Hardaway (21 points and four 3-pointers), Dennis Scott (21 points and four 3-pointers) and Anderson (18 points and four 3-pointers) did the rest from the perimeter. Their shooting allowed Orlando to make 12 of 24 3-pointers and grab a 108-102 victory that propelled them into the Eastern Conference Finals opposite the Indiana Pacers.

``Everybody tried to play Shaq straight up, but you just couldn’t do that with one man and eventually you’ve got to bring a double team,’’ said Turner, who played eight minutes of the fourth quarter of that deciding game after Grant suffered a minor hand injury. ``(Then-Magic head coach) Brian Hill did a great job with spacing and surrounding Shaq with guys who could spread the floor with shooting.’’

To properly celebrate vanquishing the Bulls in Chicago, O’Neal, Anderson and others on the Magic hoisted Grant onto their shoulder to escort him off the floor like a conquering hero. In that six-game series, Grant certainly played like a hero while averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds a game while shooting a stellar 64.7 percent from the floor (44 of 68).

``When we hoisted Horace into the air and took him off the court in Chicago, he was so happy,’’ Anderson added. ``I actually said to myself at that time, `If we meet (the Bulls) again next year, they are going to be pissed at us.’ Sure enough, they were. To lose on their home floor, they were in shock and we were so happy because that was such a tough place to play. That series was a big one for the confidence of our team.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA MAGIC CLASSIC WINS SCHEDULE

DAY

DATE

TIME

MATCHUP

REPLAY

Thu

4/30/20

8 PM

Magic at Bulls (1995 Game 3)

Sat, May 2 at 2:30 PM

Sat

5/2/20

5 PM

Magic vs Bulls (1995 Game 5)

Thu, May 7 at 8 PM

Sat

5/2/20

7 PM

Magic at Bulls (1995 Game 6)

Sun, May 3 at 10 AM

Tue

5/5/20

6 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 1)

Sat, May 9 at 12 PM

Tue

5/5/20

8:30 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 2)

Sun, May 9 at 2 PM

Thu

5/7/20

8 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 5)

Sat, May 9 at 4:30 PM

Sat

5/9/20

8 PM

Magic vs. Pacers (1995 Game 7)

Sun, May 10 at 9:30 AM

Tue

5/12/20

6 PM

Magic vs 76ers (2009 Game 2)

Sat, May 16 at 12 PM

Tue

5/12/20

8:30 PM

Magic at 76ers (2009 Game 4)

Sat, May 16 at 2:30 PM

Thu

5/14/20

8 PM

Magic vs 76ers (2009 Game 5)

Sat, May 16 at 5 PM

Sat

5/16/20

7:30 PM

Magic at 76ers (2009 Game 6)

Sun, May 17 at 9:30 AM

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