DAR Sports: 1995 NBA Finals- Houston Rockets vs Orlando Magic

By @truegodimmortal 

There was a young upstart center who was just beginning to hit his stride and enter his prime. That man was Shaquille O'Neal. In the 1994-1995 season, Shaq began showing the signs of true dominance and helped to lead his team, the Orlando Magic to the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Shaq had been a contender for NBA MVP all year and finished as the leading scorer in the league, while the Magic went 57-25 and seemed due for a run at the NBA Finals against the West no. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs and the NBA MVP David Robinson.

However, the Houston Rockets would have something to say about all of this. From the moment that the playoffs began, no one saw the Rockets repeating, as they struggled during the season, and didn't seem to have what it took to overcome the stronger regular season teams such as the Jazz, the Suns, and the Spurs of course. However, the Rockets would prove everyone wrong, beating the Jazz in 5 games, the Suns in 7, then the Spurs in 6 to make the NBA Finals yet again. The Magic would defeat the Celtics, defeat the Bulls with the newly returned Michael Jordan in 6 games, and defeat the Pacers and Reggie Miller in a great 7 game series to make their first NBA Finals. The stage was set as two of the best centers in the league would battle to see who would win the 1995 NBA Championship.

The starting lineup for the Rockets featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Mario Elie, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, and Kenny Smith. For the Magic, we saw Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Donald Royal, and Horace Grant as the starters. Game 1 approached and the Magic had home court advantage.

*Game 1

-The Magic was a young team, of course led by Shaq and Penny, and perhaps they weren't ready for this spot yet. Regardless, the Magic played hard and kept it close all game with a chance to take the lead and possibly win, but Nick Anderson missed vital free throws and Kenny Smith was on fire from three. The game went into OT, and that's where the Rockets managed to sneak out a victory 120-118 when Hakeem tipped in a missed layup by Drexler right near the buzzer. Shaq put up 26 points and 16 rebounds while Hakeem finished with 31 points and the Magic looked to regroup in game 2.

*Game 2

-The second game was a bit more favored to the Rockets as they commanded the game and went into halftime with a huge lead. The Magic would never be able to truly come back and not even a small run in the 4th quarter would make a difference, as the Rockets pulled away with a 117-106 victory to go up 2-0. Shaq played extremely well with 33 points and 12 rebounds, while Hakeem finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds. The Magic had their backs against the wall and had to head to Houston for game 3 and 4. Would the Magic be able to get back into the series or could the Rockets truly sweep them?

*Game 3

-The Magic seemed a bit more focused this game and managed to stay in it and even had the lead at times, but a Robert Horry three pointer with about 14 seconds left in the game killed their chance of making the series 2-1, as the Rockets took a 3-0 lead in the series with a 106-103 victory. Yet again, Shaq played amazing in the loss with 28 points and 10 rebounds but it was not enough. Hakeem finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds and the Rockets were on the verge of sweeping the Magic and getting their second straight NBA title. Could they do it??

*Game 4

-The answer to that question is yes. The Rockets commanded this game and finished the dominant sweep of the Magic for their easiest series win the entire playoffs. After being pushed to the limit by all three of the Western Conference teams, the Rockets would finish the sweep and defeat the Magic in game 4, 113-101. Hakeem would win NBA Finals MVP and finish this game with 35 points and 15 rebounds, including a three pointer that we rarely saw him shoot during his whole career. Shaq would play well and finish with 25 points and 12 rebounds, but the disappointment had to be apparent, as the Magic suffered a sweep in their first Finals appearance.

The Rockets would solidify themselves in history with those back to back title wins, and remain top West contenders for years to come. For Shaq and the Magic, their relationship would soon come to an end, and Shaq would go to the Lakers where he experienced many trips to the finals. Maybe we will cover another one of those soon....

Your 1995 NBA Champions, the Houston Rockets!



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