There were a lot of words that could have been used to describe Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway during his tenure with the Orlando Magic. Perhaps one of the most important was the term “clutch”.
Hardaway showed that trait on this day 25 years ago. With his team trailing in the final seconds, Hardaway scored the game-winning basket to lead the Magic past the Miami Heat, 94-93.
Without Shaquille O’Neal for the early parts of the 1995-96 season, the Magic were still off to a 4-1 start as they hosted the in-state rival Miami Heat on Nov. 11, 1995. The Heat were 3-0 and working with an upgraded roster that included All-Star center Alonzo Mourning.
The previous year, the Magic had the best home record in the NBA on their way to the NBA Finals. Orlando went 39-2 at the Orlando Arena, but for most of the night, it looked as though Miami would hand the Magic a rare home loss.
Orlando trailed 51-41 at halftime and by eight entering the final quarter. As the Magic took the ball for the final possession, they had never led in the contest.
The score was 93-92 with the clock ticking away. There was little doubt who would take the final shot for the Magic. For Miami, stopping it was a different story.
Orlando had outscored the Heat 24-17 to that point in the final quarter as Hardaway took the ball at the top of the arc. After getting a stellar screen from forward Horace Grant on Miami guard Keith Askins, Hardaway drove to his right and into traffic. Hardaway was able to get the step on Mourning and beat Bimbo Coles’ help-side defense for the runner off glass with just 1.2 seconds remaining.
Miami was unable to score on the game’s final possession as the Magic pulled out a thriller. Hardaway finished with a game-high 33 points to go with seven rebounds and a game-high seven assists. Dennis Scott added 21 points for Orlando in the win. Nick Anderson and Grant chipped in with 16 and 10 points, respectively.
Mourning paced Miami with 28 points. Billy Owens tallied 18 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and three blocks in the loss. Coles and Sasha Danilovic added 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Heat.
The Heat would avenge the loss by beating the Magic in Miami a week later, but Orlando would reel off 33 straight home wins to open the year and 40 straight in the regular season going back to the previous season. That streak would not have lasted as long as it did without Hardaway’s heroics in the thrilling victory that took place on this day a quarter-century ago.