With sports hitting a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stealing the headlines in sports recently has been ESPN’s 10-part documentary series, “The Last Dance”.
The series highlights the 1990’s Chicago Bulls dynasty and their final title in 1998. During the decade, Chicago completed a pair of three-peats. The Bulls won the NBA Finals from 1991 to 1993 and then from 1996 to 1998.
The Bulls were coached by Phil Jackson and had one of the league’s best all-around players in forward Scottie Pippen, but guard Michael Jordan was the unquestioned face of the franchise. Following the first three-peat, Jordan retired for more than a season and a half before returning late during the 1994-95 season.
Over the years, there were significant moments and games between Chicago’s championship teams and the Orlando Magic. In the third past of a six-part series, we look back on the Magic’s best regular season wins over the Bulls from expansion until Jordan’s retirement in 1998:
5. Magic hand 72-win Bulls first loss of season
Date: Nov. 14, 1995 at Orlando Arena
Score: Orlando 94, Chicago 88
Overview: During the 1995-96 season, the Chicago Bulls won more games than any team in NBA history at the time. Their first loss that season, however, came in the Orlando Arena to a Magic team that was playing without Shaquille O’Neal. The Magic trailed by 10 after a quarter, but managed to take a 68-62 lead into the final quarter. With the contest knotted at 83 late with less than two minutes to play, Dennis Scott converted a three-point play that put Orlando ahead for good before Hardaway hit a triple to ice the game. Hardaway finished with 36 points on 12-for-18 shooting to go with five rebounds and four steals in the win.
4. Nick’s strip, Penny’s dunk lifts Magic to victory
Date: Feb. 26, 1995 at Orlando Arena
Score: Orlando 105, Chicago 103
Overview: In what would be the final contest between Chicago and Orlando before Michael Jordan’s return, Anfernee Hardaway willed the short-handed Magic to victory. With Shaquille O’Neal and Horace Grant out of the lineup and Jeff Turner fouling out late, the Magic were forced to play Dennis Scott at center late in the game, but still managed to rally. Orlando trailed 103-98 with less than two minutes to go, but drew even on a three-pointer and a pair of free throws by Scott. With the score tied and seconds remaining, Magic guard Nick Anderson stripped Chicago forward Toni Kukoc and the ball found a streaking Hardaway for the winning dunk with less than a second remaining. Hardaway finished with 39 points in the win while Scott added 24 for Orlando.
3. Magic erase 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to get first-ever win in Chicago
Date: March 21, 1992 at Chicago Stadium
Score: Orlando 111, Chicago 108
Overview: The Orlando Magic had never won in Chicago when they arrived for the fourth and final meeting of the 1991-92 season and that didn’t appear to be changing. The Bulls led 94-74 in the fourth quarter, but Orlando closed the game on a 37-14 run to stun the reigning world champions. Orlando shot 70 percent in the final quarter and drew even on a dunk by Stanley Roberts with 43 seconds remaining. After a Chicago turnover, Chris Corchiani knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Magic ahead for good. The Bulls were unable to get a shot on the final possession. Terry Catledge finished with 20 points and eight rebounds to lead six Magic players in double figures scoring.
2. Smith’s game-winner spoils Jordan’s 52-point performance
Date: Dec. 20, 1989 at Orlando Arena
Score: Orlando 110, Chicago 109
Overview: In his first-ever trip to Orlando, Michael Jordan put on a show with 52 points. It was Magic slasher Otis Smith, however, who would have the biggest moment. The Magic led by 10 in the fourth quarter, but it looked as though Chicago would prevail. Twice in the final 15 seconds, Jordan put the Bulls in front — first with a pair of free throws and then with a bank shot with seven seconds remaining. Trailing 109-108, the reserve Smith was able to beat Scottie Pippen to the basket and lay it in off glass for the winning basket. Jordan caught a length-of-the-court pass on the Bulls’ final possession and was unable to get a shot. Smith finished with 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting off the Magic bench in the win.
1. Magic rally to win in overtime despite Jordan’s 64
Date: Jan. 16, 1993 at Chicago Stadium
Score: Orlando 128, Chicago 124 (Overtime)
Overview: During his illustrious career, Michael Jordan never scored more points at home or in a loss than his 64 against the Orlando Magic in mid-January 1993. Chicago took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, but it was a Chicago native who decided that 48 minutes of basketball wasn’t going to be enough. Orlando trailed 111-105 with 44 seconds left in regulation, but after a pair of baskets for the Magic and a missed free throw by Bulls’ center Bill Cartwright, Nick Anderson knocked down the game-tying three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Anderson helped put the nail in the Bulls’ coffin with five key points over the final 65 seconds. Scott Skiles finished with 31 points and 10 assists in the victory while Magic center Shaquille O’Neal added 29 points and 24 rebounds.