1995 NBA Finals
|Hall of Famers||Rockets:|
Clyde Drexler (2004)
Hakeem Olajuwon (2008)
Shaquille O'Neal (2016)
Rudy Tomjanovich (2020)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
Hugh Evans (2022)
|Eastern Finals||Magic defeated Pacers, 4–3|
|Western Finals||Rockets defeated Spurs, 4–2|
The 1995 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1994–95 National Basketball Association (NBA) season. The series pitted the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic against the defending NBA champion and Western Conference champion Houston Rockets. The pre-series hype and buildup of the Finals was centered on the meeting of the two centers opposing each other: 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 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. It was the second NBA Finals sweep in the 2–3–2 Finals format (after the Detroit Pistons did so against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989). 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 in the NHL 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 NBA Finals appearance, began the series at home, hosting the defending champion Houston Rockets. With the Magic up 110–107 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 at the time, 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. In achieving this, they earned the distinction of being the only team to win both championships during Michael Jordan's first retirement (although Jordan did return in the closing months of the 1994–95 season), in addition to being the only team other than the Chicago Bulls to win multiple championships in the 1990s. This was also the second consecutive 90s championship series not featuring the Chicago Bulls, a streak the Bulls would end in 1996.
The season-ending documentary Double Clutch by Hal Douglas, was released by NBA Entertainment to coincide with the Rockets' championship season.
The Rockets entered the 1994–95 season as defending champions. They had won their first eight games of the season, the first defending champions to have won their first eight games of their season since the 1987-88 Lakers. However, they struggled to maintain last season's form due to injuries and off-court-distractions. On February 14, the Rockets acquired Clyde Drexler from the Portland Trail Blazers, but the trade of a hometown hero (Drexler was a teammate of Olajuwon at the University of Houston) did not improve matters, and the Rockets settled for the sixth seed with a 47–35 record.
However, Houston once again lived up to its Clutch City reputation come playoff time. En route to the Finals, the Rockets defeated three teams with 55 or more victories. They began by ousting the Utah Jazz in six games (the Rockets trailed 2–1 after three games), then repeating last season's comeback effort over the Phoenix Suns (wherein the Rockets trailed 3–1 after four games). In Game 7 of that series, Phoenix led Houston 51-42 after the first half before Houston mounted a comeback to get the series win, 115-114. After dispatching the Suns, the Rockets outclassed the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games of the conference finals. They also became the first team in NBA History to have lost all their home games of the series but won all road games of that certain series thus advancing to the next round.
The Magic were only in their sixth season of existence, but they were a team on the rise. Led by All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway, new acquisition Horace Grant, and franchise cornerstones Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, the Magic rolled through the Eastern Conference, winding up with a then-franchise best 57–25 mark.
Orlando's road to the Finals began with a convincing 3–1 series win over the Boston Celtics. They followed it up with a six-game ouster of Michael Jordan (returning from an 18-month retirement) and the Chicago Bulls in the second round, and in the conference finals, they vanquished the Indiana Pacers in a tough seven-game 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:
November 23, 1994
|Houston Rockets 94, Orlando Magic 117|
March 2, 1995
|Orlando Magic 107, Houston Rockets 96|
1995 NBA Finals rosters
|Game||Date||Road team||Result||Home team|
|Game 1||June 7||Houston Rockets||120–118 (OT) (1–0)||Orlando Magic|
|Game 2||June 9||Houston Rockets||117–106 (2–0)||Orlando Magic|
|Game 3||June 11||Orlando Magic||103–106 (0–3)||Houston Rockets|
|Game 4||June 14||Orlando Magic||101–113 (0–4)||Houston Rockets|
This was one of only two NBA Finals in which the team who did not have home court advantage swept the series, (the other being the 1975 Finals, in which the Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets).
- All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC−4).
|Houston Rockets 120, Orlando Magic 118 (OT)|
|Scoring by quarter: 19–30, 31–31, 37–19, 23–30, Overtime: 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|
Orlando Arena, Orlando, Florida
Orlando led 110-107 with 10.5 seconds left, when Nick Anderson was intentionally fouled to send him to the free-throw line. Normally a respectable free-throw shooter (70.4 percent in the regular season), Anderson missed both of his free throws, but was able to grab the offensive rebound after the second miss and was fouled again. Anderson shockingly missed the next two free throws, and Houston grabbed the rebound, and would tie the game with 1.6 seconds left on Kenny Smith's 3-point shot. The shot was one of Smith's seven made 3-point shots, setting a then-Finals record. In overtime, Hakeem Olajuwon tipped in a missed finger roll by Clyde Drexler with three-tenths of a second left to win the game. Hakeem Olajuwon finished the game with 31 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks while Kenny Smith recorded 23 points and 9 assists. The four consecutive missed free-throws by Nick Anderson would haunt him for the rest of his career. After the Finals, Anderson would shoot only 60.5% on free-throws for the rest of his career.
|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: Penny Hardaway 8
|Houston leads the series, 2–0|
Orlando Arena, Orlando, Florida
Hakeem Olajuwon recorded a double-double with 34 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 117-106 victory and a 2-0 series lead. The Magic, on the other hand, became the 2nd team in NBA Finals history to lose the first two of their four home games.
|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: Penny Hardaway 14
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 31|
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 14
Asts: Drexler, Olajuwon 7 each
|Houston leads the series, 3–0|
The Summit, Houston, Texas
Robert Horry hit a three-pointer to give Houston a 104-100 lead with 14.1 seconds left. Orlando's Anfernee Hardaway then missed a three-pointer, and the rebound deflected off Dennis Scott and out of bounds with 6.8 seconds left, turning the ball over to Houston. Clyde Drexler was immediately fouled. He missed his first free throw and made the second for a 105-100 Rockets lead with 5.9 seconds left. Nick Anderson hit a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to bring the Magic within two points, and then Sam Cassell was immediately fouled. He needed to make both free throws to likely seal it, but missed the first. He made the second to give the Rockets a three-point lead with 2.2 seconds left. After a timeout to advance the ball to midcourt, the Magic had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime, but Hardaway missed a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. The Rockets held on for a 106-103 win in Game 3 to take a 3-0 series lead and were one win away from their second consecutive NBA title.
|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: Penny Hardaway 5
|Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 35|
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 15
Asts: Clyde Drexler 8
|Houston wins the series, 4–0|
The Summit, Houston, Texas
At the end of the first half, the Magic had a 4-point advantage over the home team, Rockets. However, the Rockets had another notable comeback as they outscored the Magic 66-50 in the second half, thus winning their second consecutive NBA championship. Olajuwon outscored O'Neal by 10 points and capped off the sweep by hitting a memorable yet uncharacteristic 3-pointer in front of O'Neal. When accepting the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the floor of The Summit, Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich said "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" Olajuwon, with his 35 point and 15 rebound performance, was named Finals MVP for the second straight year.
Olajuwon v. O'Neal
Although both centers played well, 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, and Michael Jordan. Jordan and Olajuwon at the time were the only players to win the award consecutively.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
- Houston Rockets
- Orlando Magic
In the United States, the NBA Finals was broadcast on NBC television, with Marv Albert, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton calling the action. Ahmad Rashad, Hannah Storm, and Jim Gray served as sideline reporters, and studio coverage was handled by Bob Costas, Julius Erving and Peter Vecsey.
National radio coverage was provided by the NBA Radio Network, with Joe McConnell and Wes Unseld on the call. After the season, NBA Radio was dissolved and subsequent national radio broadcasts of the NBA Finals would be handled by ESPN Radio.
The Rockets' title reign ended in 1996, when they were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round. The Sonics were also the last team to beat the Rockets in the playoffs prior to their championship run, having eliminated them in the second round in 1993. That year, the Rockets won 48 games and achieved the fourth seed. The following offseason, they acquired former NBA MVP Charles Barkley in a trade, but 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.
The Magic won a franchise-record 60 games in the 1995–96 NBA season, but were swept by the Chicago Bulls in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. During the offseason, Shaquille O'Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he went on to win three championships; he later added a fourth title to his resume with the Miami Heat in 2006. The Magic would not return to the Finals until 2009, which they lost to the Lakers in five games.
- ^ "1994-95 Houston Rockets Schedule and Results". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- ^ "1987-88 Los Angeles Lakers Schedule and Results". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- ^ "Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns Box Score, May 20, 1995". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- ^ 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
- ^ Short, Mike (December 19, 2019). "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion'". Morning Read.
- ^ History of the NBA Finals: Hakeem Olajuwon: The NBA’s Best In The Mid ’90s, hollywoodsportsbook.com, accessed February 16, 2007.
- ^ NBA Finals Records Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, Basketball.com, accessed February 16, 2007.
- "Shaq and Olajuwon's Game 1 battle in the 1995 NBA Finals deserves a deep rewind". SB Nation. February 23, 2019. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.
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