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25-year Orlandoversary: Magic rally from 23 down for 60th win of season

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Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NBAE via Getty Images

A two-time Eastern Conference champion, the Orlando Magic have had some memorable moments in more than three decades of basketball. On this day 25 years ago however, the Magic did something they’ve done only once – they won their 60th game of the season.

It took a Herculean effort on April 21, 1996, but the Magic rallied from 23 points down to beat the Charlotte Hornets, 103-100. The 59-22 Magic were locked into the No. 2 seed in the East while at 41-40, Charlotte had just been eliminated from playoff contention.

The contest itself however, didn’t appear to be one between teams with nothing to play for. The Hornets raced to a 57-34 lead in the second quarter, but the Magic closed the first half on a 12-2 run to draw to within 13. By the time the third quarter ended, Orlando was down just four at 79-75.

With the contest hanging in the balance, Orlando guard Anfernee Hardaway took over. Hardaway finished with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, but at one point in the final quarter, scored 12 straight points for the Magic. After blocking Larry Johnson’s three-point attempt, Hardaway’s layup with just over two minutes to play put Orlando ahead for good, 95-94.

After Glenn Rice missed on the other end for Charlotte, Hardaway’s game-high 13th assist led to a Nick Anderson three-pointer. From there, Orlando made enough free throws to put the contest on ice.

Although Hardaway powered the Magic late, Anderson actually led the team with 23 points on an ultra-efficient 8-for-10 shooting. Shaquille O’Neal finished with 21 points for Orlando while Horace Grant added 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Dennis Scott tallied 12 points as all five Magic starters scored in double figures.

Johnson led the way for Charlotte with 22 points and nine rebounds. Dell Curry tallied 19 points in the loss while Kenny Anderson scored 17 points to go with a team-high nine assists.

Orlando would go on to reach the Eastern Conference Finals where it would be swept at the hand of the Chicago Bulls. It would be 12 years later before the Magic won another playoff series.

Since the 1995-96 season, the Magic have had two 59-win regular seasons. Their lone 60-win campaign however, wrapped up on this day a quarter-century ago.