Opened in 1928, the Boston Garden had been the home court of 16 Boston Celtics teams that won the NBA Finals. On this day a quarter-century ago, it hosted its last NBA game, courtesy of the Orlando Magic.
The top-seeded Magic took a 2-1 series lead into the Boston Garden on May 5, 1995. In a best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Celtics needed to win at home in Game 4 to keep their season alive. That would not happen as Orlando closed the historic venue with a 95-92 victory.
Orlando was in front most of the way, but throughout the final three games of the series, the Celtics refused to go away. The Magic led 54-46 at halftime and by as many as nine in the third quarter, but Dominique Wilkins spurred a 16-6 run to put Boston in front. Dee Brown’s steal and layup gave the Celtics their first lead of the night – 72-71 – late in the third quarter.
The Magic would get the final basket of the quarter to take a 73-72 lead into the final period. From there, the contest went back and forth.
After leading Orlando with 24 points, including a late tying three-pointer in Game 3, Nick Anderson looked as though he delivered a dagger more than midway through the final quarter. Anderson’s only three-point attempt of the night went through to put the Magic up 89-83.
Guard Sherman Douglas would not allow Boston to go quietly. Douglas knocked down a pair of treys, including a contested one during an 8-1 run as the Celtics regained the lead, 91-90.
As was the case in Game 3 however, Boston was unable to come through in the final minute. Anderson, on the other hand, continued to make game-changing plays.
With less than two minutes to go, he came up with a big steal. That led to an Anfernee Hardaway dunk that put Orlando ahead for good.
After Orlando center Shaquille O’Neal split a pair of free throws to push the lead to two, Wilkins was able to draw a foul and get to the foul line for Boston with 16 seconds left. Wilkins made the first of two, but missed the second. Magic forward Horace Grant was able to grab the rebound and knock down a pair of clutch foul shots.
Down 95-92, Douglas would get two looks at the tying three-pointer on Boston’s final possession. The first was blocked out of bounds from Hardaway. The second was also contested before bouncing off the back of the rim as time expired.
For the first time in franchise history, the Orlando Magic had advanced in the playoffs. The historic Boston Garden was closed for basketball.
O’Neal, Grant and Hardaway each recorded double-doubles for an Orlando team that shot 51 percent from the field. O’Neal tallied a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds. Grant finished with 23 points and 10 boards. Hardaway scored just 10 points, but dished out 13 assists. Dennis Scott added 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Wilkins led Boston with 22 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. Douglas tallied 21 points in the loss. Brown scored 18 points.
As a franchise that had won 16 titles said goodbye to its historic building, a young franchise was on the rise. The Magic would go on to reach the NBA Finals in 1995. That postseason run started by closing the Boston Garden on this day 25 years ago.