Rockets: Horace Grant thinks ’95 Finals could have gone another way

Horace Grant
Horace Grant /

When asked about the 1995 NBA Finals, Horace Grant had an interesting take about how the series between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets could’ve unfolded.

The popular ESPN docu-series “The Last Dance” is putting several old-school NBA players back in the spotlight to share their thoughts on all things basketball throughout the Michael Jordan era. One of those players is Horace Grant, whose Orlando Magic took on the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals.

Grant was a member of the Chicago Bulls for all three years of their first three-peat from 1990-93 before finding his way to Orlando before the 1994-95 season. In the Finals once again in 1995, it’s safe to say Grant wasn’t lacking in confidence in himself and his teammates.

The four-time NBA champion joined the Pardon My Take podcast after episodes five and six of the Jordan series to discuss his 13-year career in the league. When asked about a “what-if” scenario that’s likely been on the minds of Magic fans for years, Grant had an interesting answer.

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When asked what would have happened if Nick Anderson made one of his free throws in the waning moments of Game 1, Grant replied: “That would be my fourth championship.”

When pushed further, Horace continued:

“We win that game, our confidence would be [high], and then we just carry over. With that young team that we had with Shaq, Penny, Nick and Dennis Scott — and you give a young team confidence? We wouldn’t have known that we weren’t supposed to beat the great Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.”

There’s a lot to dissect here. The insinuation, of course, is that if Nick Anderson was able to seal a Game 1 by making any of his four free throw attempts in the final 10 seconds, the Magic would’ve taken the entire series.

Grant’s belief in his team is admirable, but even for a key member of that Orlando team, this seems like a bit of a stretch. We’re not talking about a series that went six or seven games. This was a series that was over before it even got interesting.

The Rockets backed up their overtime road win in Game 1 with an 11-point win just two days later and simply never looked back. Would the win have given the young Magic nucleus of Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardway confidence? Sure. But don’t you already have to be pretty confident in yourselves to reach the NBA Finals?

Confidence doesn’t suddenly prevent Olajuwon from averaging 32.8 points 11.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. I also don’t see it stopping Robert Horry from producing in the biggest games of his career, as he did time and time again on multiple teams.

Flashback to Horry outplaying Grant in '95. Related Story

It’s also important to keep in mind — Orlando was at home for Game 1. They had homecourt advantage for a reason and were expected to handle their business, so I’m not sure why their confidence would be soaring higher than usual after such a victory.

On the flip side, the Rockets were on a mission to defend their title, so it’s hard to see them not being extra motivated in a Game 2 situation after narrowly letting one get away.

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Horace Grant ended his career with four NBA titles after winning his last one in 2001 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 win or not, there’s no way a fifth ring with Orlando was going to happen.