1995 NBA Finals
|Announcers||Marv Albert, Matt Guokas, and Bill Walton|
|Hall of Famers||Rockets:
Clyde Drexler (2004)
Hakeem Olajuwon (2008)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
|Eastern Finals||Magic defeat Pacers, 4-3|
|Western Finals||Rockets defeat Spurs, 4-2|
The 1995 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1994–95 NBA season. The series pitted the Orlando Magic against the Houston Rockets. The pre-series hype and build-up of the Finals was centered on the meeting of the two centers Shaquille O'Neal of the Magic and Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rockets. Going into the series the matchup was compared to the Bill Russell-Wilt Chamberlain matchup of the 1960s.
The Rockets became the first team in NBA history to win the championship as a sixth seed. In addition, they became the first team in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason en route to the championship. The Rockets would win a playoff-record nine road games in the 1995 playoffs. In addition, the Rockets' sweep of the Magic was unique, in the fact that it was a "reverse sweep," where Houston won Games 1 and 2 on the road and 3 and 4 at home. It was also the second NBA Finals sweep in the 2-3-2 Finals format. The Rockets also became the first repeat NBA Champion in history to keep the title with a sweep. In addition, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to win the title without having home-court advantage in any of the four playoff rounds since the playoffs was expanded to a 16 team format in 1984. Coincidentally, this feat would also be achieved by the New Jersey Devils that same year, when they won the Stanley Cup over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Orlando Magic (making their first ever NBA Finals appearance) began the 1995 NBA Finals at home, hosting the defending champion Houston Rockets. With the Magic up by three points late in Game 1, Nick Anderson missed four consecutive free throws in the closing seconds of the game, and Kenny Smith hit a three-pointer, tying the game and sending it to overtime as well as setting a new record with the most three-pointers in an NBA Finals game with seven. The more experienced Rockets went on to win in overtime and eventually swept the Magic, winning their second consecutive NBA Championship.
The season-ending documentary Double Clutch by Hal Douglas, was released by NBA Entertainment to coincide with the Rockets' championship season.
1995 NBA Finals roster
1995 Houston Rockets
1995 Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic entered the NBA as an expansion franchise in the 1989–90 season. The Magic built the core of their team through the draft, beginning with original pick Nick Anderson in 1989, followed by Dennis Scott in 1990, Shaquille O'Neal in 1992, and Penny Hardaway in 1993. Brian Hill was hired as head coach in 1993, and led them to the playoffs for the first time in 1994, but it was not until the 1995 playoffs that the Magic finally achieved their full potential. With the addition of veteran forward Horace Grant and point guard Brian Shaw, the Magic won a franchise-record 57 games, and then defeated the Boston Celtics in four games, the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six, and then the Indiana Pacers in seven games to advance to their first NBA Finals in franchise history.
Meanwhile the Houston Rockets struggled to regain the form that won them the NBA championship the previous year, mainly due to injuries and off-court distractions. Despite the midseason acquisition of Clyde Drexler, a former teammate of Olajuwon at the University of Houston, the Rockets only managed to win 47 games and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference. However, the Rockets returned to the Finals after upsetting the Utah Jazz in five games, then overcame a 3–1 deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns in seven games, before defeating the San Antonio Spurs in six games. The Rockets' return to the Finals came at a perfect time as the team was back at full strength while their teamwork and clutch play was displayed in every series.
Road to the Finals
|Houston Rockets (Western Conference Champion)||Orlando Magic (Eastern Conference Champion)|
6th seed in the West, 11th best league record
|Defeated the (3) Utah Jazz, 3–2||First Round||Defeated the (8) Boston Celtics, 3–1|
|Defeated the (2) Phoenix Suns, 4–3||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (5) Chicago Bulls, 4–2|
|Defeated the (1) San Antonio Spurs, 4–2||Conference Finals||Defeated the (2) Indiana Pacers, 4–3|
Regular season series
The Orlando Magic won both games in the regular season series:
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Road Team||TV Time|
|Game 1||Wednesday, June 7||Orlando Magic||118-120 OT (0-1)||Houston Rockets||9:00et|
|Game 2||Friday, June 9||Orlando Magic||106-117 (0-2)||Houston Rockets||9:00et|
|Game 3||Sunday, June 11||Houston Rockets||106-103 (3-0)||Orlando Magic||7:00et|
|Game 4||Wednesday, June 14||Houston Rockets||113-101 (4-0)||Orlando Magic||9:00et|
- This was the second NBA Finals that ended in a 4-game sweep since the Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985 (1989 was the first).
|Houston Rockets 120, Orlando Magic 118 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 19–30, 31–31, 37–19, 23–30, OT: 10–8|
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 31
Rebs: Clyde Drexler 11
Asts: Kenny Smith 9
|Pts: Hardaway, O'Neal 26 each
Rebs: Grant, O'Neal 16 each
Asts: Shaquille O'Neal 9
|Houston leads the series, 1–0|
Nick Anderson misses four consecutive free-throws with 3 seconds left in regulation, Kenny Smith hit a then-Finals record seven 3-pointers, the last tying the game up at 110 with 1.6 seconds left following Anderson's missed foul shots. In overtime, Hakeem Olajuwon tips in a missed finger roll by Clyde Drexler with three-tenths of a second left to win the game.
|Houston Rockets 117, Orlando Magic 106|
|Scoring by quarter: 28–19, 35–22, 27–30, 27–35|
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 34
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 11
Asts: Clyde Drexler 5
|Pts: Shaquille O'Neal 33
Rebs: Shaquille O'Neal 12
Asts: Anfernee Hardaway 8
|Houston leads the series, 2–0|
|Orlando Magic 103, Houston Rockets 106|
|Scoring by quarter: 30–28, 23–26, 22–21, 28–31|
|Pts: Shaquille O'Neal 28
Rebs: Anderson, Grant, O'Neal 10 each
Asts: Anfernee Hardaway 14
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 31
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 14
Asts: Drexler, Olajuwon 7 each
|Houston leads the series, 3–0|
Robert Horry hits a 3-pointer to give Houston a 104-100 lead with 14.1 seconds left.
|Orlando Magic 101, Houston Rockets 113|
|Scoring by quarter: 21–23, 30–24, 25–30, 25–36|
|Pts: Hardaway, O'Neal 25 each
Rebs: Grant, O'Neal 12 each
Asts: Anfernee Hardaway 5
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 35
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 15
Asts: Clyde Drexler 8
|Houston wins the series, 4–0|
Olajuwon outscores O'Neal by 10 points and caps off the sweep by hitting a memorable yet uncharacteristic 3-pointer in front of O'Neal.
Olajuwon vs. O'Neal
Although both centers played well, Olajuwon is generally considered to have outplayed O'Neal. Olajuwon outscored O'Neal in every game of the series and became one of the few players in NBA history to score at least 30 points in every game of an NBA Finals series:
|1995 NBA Finals||Gm 1||Gm 2||Gm 3||Gm 4||Totals|
|Hakeem Olajuwon||31||34||31||35||32.8 ppg|
|Shaquille O'Neal||26||33||28||25||28.0 ppg|
By winning his second straight NBA Finals MVP award, Hakeem Olajuwon became the sixth player to win the award on multiple occasions, joining Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan. Later, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James would join this group. Jordan and Olajuwon at the time were the only players to win the award consecutively. Later, O'Neal himself would go on to win the award in three consecutive seasons with the Lakers (2000–02). Kobe Bryant later won two NBA Finals MVP awards consecutively (2009–10). Lebron James also won two NBA Finals MVP awards consecutively (2012–13).
Quotes of the Finals
Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!
Drexler puts the move on Anderson. Drexler with the finger-roll, the tip by Olajuwon! The Rockets lead, three-tenths of a second remaining. What a tip by Hakeem Olajuwon!
Smith circles out back, instead they give it to Drexler. Drexler driving, he goes, he puts it up, OH THE REBOUND! TIPPED IN! TIPPED IN! TIPPED IN BY HAKEEM! The Houston Rockets have stunned the Orlando Magic, and they win Game 1 of the NBA Finals in stunning fashion.—NBA Radio announcer Joe McConnell on the aforementioned play.
The Houston Rockets have won their second consecutive NBA Championship, they have swept the Orlando Magic!—NBC announcer Marv Albert after Game 4.
Clyde, this was your third trip to the finals and the third time was the charm.—NBC sportscaster Bob Costas on Clyde Drexler winning his first ring after Game 4.
The Rockets' championship reign would end in 1996, where they were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics in four games of the second round. The Sonics were also the last team to beat the Rockets in the playoffs prior to their two-year championship reign, when they defeated them in seven games of the second round in 1993. That year, the Rockets won 48 games and achieved the fourth seed. The following offseason, the Rockets attempted to make it back to the finals by adding former NBA MVP Charles Barkley. However, age and injuries would take its toll, and the closest the Rockets would achieve after their two-year championship reign was a six-game loss to the Utah Jazz in the 1997 Western Conference Finals. As of 2013, this is the Rockets' last NBA Finals appearance.
The Magic would have another strong season in 1996 winning 60 games. However, they were swept by the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, who would go on to win the NBA championship after registering a league-record 72 wins. The following offseason, Shaquille O'Neal joined the Los Angeles Lakers, and went on to win NBA titles with the team in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Magic would not make it back to the finals until 2009.
- Roarin' Rockets send Magic reeling , 2-0 Manila Standard June 11, 1995
- Houston poised for sweep Manila Standard June 13, 1995
- Two-rrific Two-ston Manila Standard June 16, 1995
- History of the NBA Finals: Hakeem Olajuwon: The NBA’s Best In The Mid ’90s, hollywoodsportsbook.com, accessed February 16, 2007.
- NBA Finals Records, Basketball.com, accessed February 16, 2007.