From the 1993-94 season to the 1996-97 campaign, the Orlando Magic made the playoffs every year. Although they advanced to the NBA Finals in 1995 and Eastern Conference Finals in 1996, Orlando’s season would ultimately end with sweeps in each of its first three playoff appearances.
History was on the verge of repeating itself on this day 25 years ago, but Anfernee Hardaway had other plans. Hardaway scored 42 points as the Magic rallied to beat the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 88-75.
The Magic had dropped the first two games of the best-of-five series as they arrived at Orlando Arena on April 29, 1997. Early in the second quarter, it didn’t appear as though the results would be any different.
As the second period neared the midway point, the Magic were getting manhandled. Miami led 39-19 and showed no signed of slowing down. That’s when Hardaway began to take over.
After a jumper from Darrell Armstrong, Hardaway scored 13 straight points for the Magic as Orlando closed the first half on a 23-3 run. By halftime, the score was knotted at 42.
The Heat used a 7-0 run in the second half to take a 49-44 lead, but Orlando answered with 12 straight points. Armstrong ignited the run with a four-point play and capped it with a slam. Orlando led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but the Heat climbed back to within two by the early parts of the fourth quarter.
With the score 67-65, the Magic had another run in them. A 9-0 pushed the lead back to double digits and from there, Miami never got closer than nine.
Hardaway’s 42 points came on 16-for-30 shooting. He also led the Magic with eight rebounds. Armstrong and Gerald Wilkins gave Orlando strong efforts off the bench. Armstrong finished with 21 points – a career-high at the time — and eight assists while Wilkins added 11 points.
Alonzo Mourning finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Heat. Guards Voshon Leonard and Tim Hardaway added 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the loss.
Orlando would ultimately win Game 4 to even the series before falling in the decisive Game 5 back in Miami. Hardaway’s 42 points served as a Magic playoff record that stood for six years. They came on this day a quarter-century ago.