Five days after getting their first-ever playoff win, the Orlando Magic found themselves in a pivotal position on this day 25 years ago.
Following a 47-point victory in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, top-seeded Orlando was stunned in Game 2 at home against the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics. With the series tied 1-1, the scene shifted to the historic Boston Garden on May 3, 1995.
The Celtics were just 35-47 during the regular season, but would give the Magic all they wanted. In Game 3, Boston led late, but Orlando found a way. The Magic closed the contest on an 8-0 run in a thrilling 82-77 victory.
The Celtics led by five after a quarter, but Orlando managed to take a 45-41 lead into the locker room. That lead would balloon to 10 in the third quarter, but the Celtics would not go away.
Despite shooting just 31 percent for the game, the Celtics led with more than a minute to play. Boston took its first lead of the second half on a contested three-pointer by Sherman Douglas and a pair of free throws by Dominique Wilkins to go up 74-73 with less than five minutes to go in the game.
After more than three minutes without a field goal, the Magic found themselves down 77-74 with about 70 seconds remaining. That’s when Nick Anderson drew Orlando even with a clutch three-pointer with 1:10 to play in the contest.
Wilkins was able to get to the rim on the next Boston possession, but Magic guard Anfernee Hardaway came from nowhere to block the shot and keep the score tied. With less than 30 seconds to play, Dennis Scott missed an opportunity to give Orlando the lead, but Shaquille O’Neal was able to slam home the miss and put the Magic ahead for good.
Celtics’ center Pervis Ellison missed the tying shot on the other end and Anderson proceeded to ice the game with free throws. Boston was held scoreless over the final 2:15 as Orlando rallied to push the Celtics to the brink of elimination.
On 9-for-17 shooting, Anderson led all scorers with 24 points to go with three steals. O’Neal overcame early foul trouble to finish with 20 points, a season-high 21 rebounds and a game-high four blocks. Hardaway also filled up the box score with 16 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks. Scott added 11 points off the Orlando bench.
Wilkins and Dee Brown each finished with 16 points to pace the Celtics. Wilkins also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Dino Radja added 15 points in the loss.
Prior to the Game 3 contest in Boston, the Magic had won just one playoff game ever and never on the road. Orlando would win four road playoff games that postseason en route to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance. The first of those happened on this day a quarter-century ago.