Penny Hardaway recently discussed the overwhelming confidence his Orlando Magic had before they faced the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals.
With the airing of “The Last Dance” over the past few weeks, the 90s era of the NBA has dominated basketball talk. From some interesting comments from Horace Grant to hypotheticals by Kenny Smith, the title runs of the Houston Rockets during that time have been coming up often. Penny Hardaway added to the conversation on Thursday with his first-hand account of that series.
The Orlando Magic, led by a young core of Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Horace Grant, had an impressive 1994-95 season, boasting the league’s best offensive rating going into the playoffs.
After finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 57-25, the Magic entered the playoffs with a bang, defeating Dominique Wilkins and the Boston Celtics by 47 points in their opener.
After knocking out the Celtics, they took on the Chicago Bulls, boosted by the return of Michael Jordan during the regular season. Behind 27 points and 13 rebounds from O’Neal, the Magic closed Chicago out on the road in six games to set up an Eastern Conference Finals showdown with Indiana.
The Pacers put up the biggest fight but ultimately were blown out in Game 7 to set up Orlando’s first NBA Finals appearance. The confidence of the entire team was high, with good reason.