In more than three decades as an NBA franchise, the Orlando Magic have managed two trips to the NBA Finals. That was what was on the line on this day 25 years ago in what was the biggest game in franchise history at the time.
The Eastern Conference Finals was down to one game between the conference’s top two seeds on June 4, 1995. The home team had won every game of the series as the scene shifted back to the Orlando Arena tied at three games apiece. The Indiana Pacers had blown the Magic out by 27 points at Market Square Arena in Game 6, but for the Magic, there was no place like home.
The Magic finished the regular season an NBA-best 39-2 at home. During the Eastern Conference Finals, Orlando had won Games 1, 2 and 5 on their home court – all by five points or less. The hometown fans wouldn’t have to hold their breaths for long as the Magic cruised to their first NBA Finals with ease by way of a 105-81 victory.
For a half, the Pacers had hope. The Magic used the energy from a raucous crowd to race to a 24-12 lead, but by the break, Indiana was down just seven at 52-45. The final 24 minutes would be complete and utter domination by Orlando.
The Magic held Indiana to just 36 points in the second half. Following a dunk by Indiana guard Reggie Miller that cut the lead to six, the Magic used a 13-1 run to turn the contest into a rout.
After shooting 11-for-17 in the third quarter, the Orlando lead ballooned to 80-63 entering the final period. In the fourth quarter, it was much of the same. The Pacers never threatened.
As a team, Orlando shot 57 percent from the field and 13-for-27 from deep. All five Orlando starters scored in double-figures, led by All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal’s game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Dennis Scott was 7-for-11 from the field and 5 of 7 from deep on a night where he finished with 19 points. All-Star guard Anfernee Hardaway and veteran forward Horace Grant each shot an outstanding 7-for-9 from the floor, finishing with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Nick Anderson added 12 points and tied Hardaway’s game-high three steals.
Orlando dominated on both ends of the floor, holding the Pacers to a series-low 81 points on just 37 percent shooting and 4-for-19 from deep. Dale Davis led Indiana with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Miller, Mark Jackson and Rik Smits tallied 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the defeat.
For the first time ever, the Magic were bound for the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Orlando, that trip would end in a four-game sweep at the hand of the defending world champion Houston Rockets.
Still, that Eastern Conference title remains one of the signature moments for the young Orlando franchise. It was won on this day a quarter century ago.