After helping the Orlando Magic reach the NBA Finals in his second season in the league, guard Anfernee Hardaway was forced to carry the load for the Magic early on during his third season.
With superstar center Shaquille O’Neal out for the early parts of the 1995-96 season, Hardaway was tasked with being Orlando’s No. 1 option. On this day 25 years ago, Hardaway handled that responsibility well with a career-high scoring effort in a thrilling 130-122 triple-overtime win over the New Jersey Nets.
The Magic were 2-1 as they made their way to Orlando Arena on Nov. 8, 1995. New Jersey was 1-1. For a half, the Nets were in control, but in the end, Hardaway’s 42 points was the difference.
The Nets led 54-45 at the break, but Hardaway used a pair of three-point plays and a three-pointer to fuel a 24-9 run in the third quarter. After three quarters, Orlando led 77-76, but the early parts of the fourth quarter belonged to the Nets.
New Jersey opened the fourth quarter on a 17-6 run, thanks to four scoreless minutes by the Magic. Hardaway was held scoreless for the first nine minutes of the final period, but got things going with the game on the line. His layup in the lane with 39 seconds to go tied the game at 96 before Nick Anderson’s steal and layup capped a 15-3 run and gave the Magic a late 98-96 lead.
The Magic were one stop away from a win, but Chris Childs knocked down a pair of free throws for the Nets to force overtime. Orlando also needed just one stop in each of the first two overtimes to prevail, but baskets by Vern Fleming in the first overtime and Rick Mahorn in the second kept the Nets alive. The third overtime however, was all Magic.
Hardaway scored six points in the final overtime, but it was a pair of three-pointers by Anderson that created breathing room early in the third extra period. After starting 3-for-17 from the field, Anderson’s triples pushed the lead to 125-117 in the eventual win.
Hardaway led five Magic players in double figures scoring, finishing 13-for-21 from the field with eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Dennis Scott made four three-pointers during a 32-point night. Anderson finished with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Horace Grant also tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. Brian Shaw finished with 11 points and six assists in the win.
New Jersey had seven players in double-figures, including three who tallied double-doubles. Kevin Edwards led the Nets with 21 points while Armen Gilliam added 20 points and 10 rebounds. P.J. Brown, Fleming and Childs all scored 14 points. Jayson Williams and Ed O’Bannon scored 13 and 11 points, respectively. Brown grabbed 12 rebounds while Williams wasn’t far behind with 11.
The 42 points would stand as a career-high for Hardaway during the regular season for the duration of his career. As for the Magic, they would go 5-0 in overtime throughout the course of a franchise record 60-win season. The first of those wins came on this day a quarter-century ago.