Penny Hardaway thought Orlando ‘was gonna smash’ the Rockets in 1995

Anfernee Hardaway Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
Anfernee Hardaway Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport /
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Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O’Neal (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images) /

The Rockets Humble the Young Guys

As they did in their opening playoff game in which they rushed out to a 30-13 lead over Boston, the Orlando Magic had a first-quarter outburst in Game 1 of the NBA Finals as well. They built a 30-19 lead over Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets, and for a while, it looked like Orlando was destined to knock off the defending champions.

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“We had them down 20 in the 1st quarter, and then they made a nice run,” said Hardaway. In the third quarter, they made another run and it went into overtime and they beat us.”

The way the game went into overtime was unquestionably demoralizing for the Magic, as it came down to a 70 percent shooter hitting just one of four free throws to seal the game for them.

Nick Anderson wasn’t able to, however, opening the door for the Rockets to tie the game on a Kenny Smith 3-pointer and steal Game 1.

Horace Grant recently talked about how he believes a Game 1 win for Orlando there would’ve led to a series win from the resulting confidence.

While that seems like a huge reach, it’s safe to say the opposite effect happened once they let the game get away.

“I think that game, it deflated our whole team to where we could never recover,” said Hardaway. The Rockets, on the other hand, never looked back after their improbable win.

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If Penny and the Magic were expecting a dominant performance when they reached the NBA Finals in 1995, they got it — it just happened to be from the guys on the other end of the court.