Nice hair Shaq

In honor of the Orlando Magic making their second-ever NBA Finals appearance, here's the best of the worst from their championship series debut.

The Worst of Game 1:

The Orlando Magic: Playing in their first NBA Finals at home in front of a wildly out-of-control sellout crowd, the Magicians started the game like a stomach full of cheesy double beef burritos covered in fire sauce. As a result, Orlando led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter. But Houston cut the lead to 11 at the half and then outscored the Magic 37-19 in the third quarter to lead 87-80 going into the fourth. The Enchanters would eventually succumb in overtime, 120-118. And here are the reasons why:

Shaq: The Diesel went 10-for-16 from the field and nearly recorded a triple-double (26 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists). Unfortunately, the Big Butterfingers couldn't hang on to the ball (finishing with a game-worst 7 turnovers) or contain Hakeem Olajuwon (who had a game-high 31 points). But his biggest blunder came in the final seconds, when he went for the block on Clyde Drexler instead of sticking to Olajuwon...who tipped in the game-winner with three-tenths of a tick left on the clock.

Orlando's perimeter defense: As if it wasn't bad enough that Shaq couldn't control the paint, the Magic couldn't stop Houston's air attack either. Mario Elie went 7-for-11 from the field and Kenny Smith drained 7 three-pointers...which set an NBA Finals record. (Smith notched another Finals record by knocking down 5 of those threes in the third quarter.) The Rockets finished 14-for-32 from downtown (setting a new team record), compared to 9-for-30 for Orlando. Apparently "magic" is no substitute for a good oldfangled "hand in the face."

Nick Anderson: Poor Nick. He scored 22 points (9-for-18), hit nearly half of his team's threes, grabbed 11 boards, and dished out 5 assists while also contributing a team-high 3 steals. He even blocked a shot! But he will only -- and, like, forever -- be remembered for, well, go to the 4:45 mark in this video:

That's right: He bricked two freebies with 10.5 seconds left, actually managed to come away with the offensive board (forcing Houston to foul him again), and then gonged TWO MORE free throws. Oh the fail on that sequence is off the charts. For more on this tragedy, let's consult Nick's Wikipedia page:

Game One of the NBA Finals against the defending champion Houston Rockets, at the Orlando Arena. With the Magic up by three points late in the game, Anderson, typically a 70% free throw shooter, missed four consecutive free throws that could have sealed the victory for Orlando. Kenny Smith hit a three-pointer for Houston shortly thereafter, tying the game and sending it to overtime. The Rockets went on to win the game in overtime and eventually swept the Magic, winning their second consecutive NBA Championship. As a result of this incident, some Orlando fans began to label Anderson with the derogatory nicknames of "Nick the Brick" and "Brick Anderson."

Two seasons after the 1995 finals, Anderson's career took an abrupt downward spiral, largely due to a sudden inability to shoot free throws, and he even suffered an injury in Game 3 of the conference finals in a rematch against the Bulls and was out for the season. During the 1996-97 season, Anderson free throw shooting percentage tumbled to a career-low 40.4% and his scoring average to 12.0 points per game. Anderson had to be removed from the closing minutes of several close games due to his undependability at the charity stripe.

His struggles worsened through the first half of the 1997-98 season. Through January 27 of that season, Anderson was averaging only 6.5 points per game, and shooting a paltry 36.3% from the free throw line...
You get the picture. It was bad. Basically, those four missed free throws destroyed Brick's, er, Nick's career. According to a Sports Illustrated article, "[Anderson] was so hesitant about going to the line that he stopped driving to the basket, afraid of getting fouled. His timidity reached the point where the Magic had to include an incentive in his contract -- based on how many free throws he shot -- to keep him from hiding on the perimeter." Eventually, Nick consulted a sports psychologist, who helped him bump his free throw percentage back into the 60s, but the damage was done.

Update! Basketbawful reader Jwoey commented: "Don't forget the other thing Nick Anderson will never be remembered for because of Game 1. He's the only player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game off the bench." Indeed. It happened on April 23, 1993. On a night in which Shaq busted his second backboard of the season, Nick exploded out of his warmups to shoot 17-for-25 from the field, 4-for-7 from distance and a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. Mind you, he scored that 50 points in only 33 minutes. That's one freaky efficient performance. And the Magic won 119-116. Shaq had only 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting and nearly fouled out. Orlando's second-best player that night was Scott Skiles (19 points, 9 assists and only one fewer rebound than Shaq). Bernard King had his best game of the season for the Nets (24 points, 10-for-16) and would play only four more games before retiring.

Donald Royal (Magic) and Pete Chilcutt (Rockets): Each man recorded a one trillion in Game 1.

The Worst of Game 2:

The Orlando Magic: After the heartbreaking way they lost Game 1, you'd assume that the Magic would absolutely KILL THEMSELVES to win Game 2...right? Well, if you thought that, you're probably the kind of person who believes all those Chuck Norris facts. (And if you believe those facts, I know a rich man in Nigeria who's dying and wants to give you all his money. All I need is your bank account number...) This game proved that you can never overestimate the heart of a non-champion. The Magic came out with the kind of energy you'd expect in Game 2 of the preseason. They were down 22 at the half and never really challenged again as the Rockets coasted in for a 117-106 victory. It was the Rockets' seventh straight road win, breaking the record of six in one NBA playoff series set by Chicago in 1991, and Houston's ninth playoff road win overall, breaking the record of eight set by the 1981 Rockets. This also marked only the second time in Finals history where the winning team won Games 1 and 2 on the road. (As many of you pointed out, the 1993 Bulls-Suns Finals was the first time.) I guess what I'm trying to say is: Historic fail.

Nick Anderson, quote machine: Said the Brick: "Our backs are already against the wall. If we lose Game 3, we're shoved into the closet. You could say we're desperate. We lose Game 3, then, basically, we're barely peeping out of a hole."

Tree Rollins, quote machine: Despite going down 2-0, Shaq's seldom-used backup was in high spirts after the game: "We got 'em right where we want 'em. We're loose. We've got nothing to lose." It would turn out, however, that they had plenty to lose.

Pete Chilcutt: He recorded his second consecutive one trillion of the Finals.

The Worst of Game 3:

Shaq: The Big Fella once again had a big-time game: 28 points (11-for-17), 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks. However, he missed almost half his freebies (6-for-11), committed a game-high 4 turnovers and got destroyed on the defensive end by Hakeem, who had game-highs in points (31) and rebounds (14). (Olajuwon also had a team-high 7 assists.) Poor Shaq. The 1995 Finals must have been like being covered in flesh-eating bacteria. Amusingly enough, Shaq remained confident his team could come back and win the series: "We've gone down to the wire in all the games. We just got to get that first win and go from there."

Nick Anderson: Remember that Sports Illustrated article I referenced above that said "[Anderson] was so hesitant about going to the line that he stopped driving to the basket, afraid of getting fouled"? Well, check out these numbers: Anderson attempted 14 shots, 12 of which were from beyond the arc. All four of his made field goals were threes. He had zero free throw attempts. Basically, Nick would have been taking his shots from out of bounds if they refs would have let him.

Dennis Scott: I'm not going to mince words here: Dennis Scott sucked in the 1995 NBA Finals. He went 3-for-10 in Game 1 and then again in Game 3. Amazingly, he was even worse in Game 3, going 2-for-11...which included a dreadful 1-for-9 three-point shooting performance. It was like Scott was receiving electric shocks to his genitals every time he attempted a shot. And in retrospect, I really hope that was the case.

Orlando's perimeter defense: Kenny Smith was 1-for-7 and missed all four of his three-point attempts and Houston went only 7-for-19 as a team. But Robert Horry began his transformation into "Big Shot Rob" by drilling a three-bomb with 14 seconds left to help the Rockets eke out a 106-103 victory and a 3-0 series lead. Go to the 4:05 mark:

Horace Grant: In case you didn't watch that video, it was Ho Grant that got dotted by Horry's three.

Charles Jones: Talk about your useless stints. Jones logged 12 minutes of PT and finished with 4 fouls and a turnover. He didn't even attempt a shot.

Pete Chilcutt: That's right...a third straight one trillion!!

The Worst of Game 4:

The Orlando Magic: Swept. All in all, a pretty embarrassing way to finish the season, especially considering they were heavy favorites heading into the Finals. It became only the sixth time in league history that a team lost 4-0 in the championship series. Again: Historic fail.

Shaq: The trend of this series continued in Game 4, as Shaq padded his stats (25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) but set a game-high in turnovers (6) while getting used like an old-school Atari joystick by Hakeem (35 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals). The Dream even knocked down a three-pointer! It's not surprise that Olajuwon was a unanimous choice for Finals MVP. Looking back, it's mildly surprising Shaq didn't become The Big Relocated Witness after this series.

Orlando's perimeter defense: Again with the trends! Robert Horry (21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists) kicked in four triples and Mario Ellie (22 points, 4 steals) went 4-for-6 from downtown and 9-for-11 overall. Basically, the Magic couldn't stop Hakeem in single coverage and they paid dearly if they tried to double-team him. Not surprisingly, that lose-lose situation led to, well, a big loss.

Nick Anderson: His unraveling became complete in this game, as he played only 31 minutes, shot 1-for-5 and finished with as many points as fouls (4).

Penny Hardaway, quote machine: "I feel like we let the entire Eastern Conference down and let ourselves down by not winning a game. If we had to play the series over again, I don't think they'd be four games better than us. But they were in this series." It's a real shame that David Stern didn't let them play this series over again. It would have been a real joy to hear what Penny had to say after watching his team get swept twice.

Pete Chilcutt: He never got into the game, which means that he AVERAGED a one trillion in his first and only NBA Finals appearance...despite appearing in three out of four games. That should earn him a bronze statue in Basketbawful's All-Lacktion Hall of Shame.

Rudy T, quote machine: And here's the classic speech: "Never underestimate the heart of a champion. I don't have a vocabulary to describe how I feel about this team, about their character, about their guts. No one in the history of the league has done what this team has done. We won more road games than anybody. I don't know if a player has ever played as great as Hakeem Olajuwon did all through this playoff series. I don't know if a team has made a major trade during the course of a year and kept their chemistry together. This is a special team. Everybody we beat during the playoffs could have been a championship team. The lack of respect for this team has to stop. I'm the proudest guy in the world."

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Anonymous Dan B. said...
Wow, it's just like ESPN Classic. You know, only if ESPN Classic didn't suck 95% of the time.

Pete Chilcutt, we salute you and your dedication to lacktion. I'm sure Chris will be wiping a tear from his eye when he reads of your accomplishments.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
'Enchanters' on the first Orlando Magic post.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Buck -- In the immortal words of Pee Wee Herman: "I meant to do that." You know...Magic...Magicians...Enchanters...Spellcasters, Necromancers, Conjurers, etc.

Blogger Fowill said...
Thanks for bringing back memories of Houston's favorite son: Chilly Pete.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Yeah, but you misspelled it. You said 'Enhanters.' It should be 'Enchanters.'


Also you put 'and a turnovers' in the Charles Jones post.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Also the Nick Anderson post says 'Nick Anderon.'

I can't help it. Please forgive me my liege.

Blogger Will said...
I've always loved your penchant for making fun of Shaq for the nicknames he gives himself, but the Big Butterfingers and the Big Relocated Witness are just hilarious.

Anonymous Jwoey said...
Don't forget the other thing Nick Anderson will never be remembered for because of Game 1. He's the only player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game off the bench.

Anonymous What Is Gifting said...
Great stuff. That Game 1 tip-in is still fresh in my memory.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Nice stat from jwoey.

Nick Andersson should probably have that one at the ready for whenever someone reminds him of that fateful evening. Anderson was the one who caused........"The Sweepening."

Out this June......just like the Magic.

Blogger 49er16 said...
Will you be doing a Worst of compilation of all the NBA finals the Lakers have lost?

My favorite is still the 04 Finals.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Tree Rollins, what a great name for an NBA center.

And the LA Lakers are 9-14 in the Finals since 1960.

Anonymous Karc said...
The Lakers' history of suckitude in the Finals would take several days.

There's 1983, where "fo', fi', fo'" happened.

There's 1989, where Detroit crippled Showtime in humiliating fashion.

There's 1991, which ended Showtime proper and basically paved the way for Jordan to run over the league for 8 years.

There's 2004, which killed Shaq-Kobe, and made gambling degenerates everywhere re-think betting on basketball.

There's 2008, featuring a historic 24-point chokejob in Game 4 and a 39-point beatdown in Game 6.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You need to do more posts like this. I'd never have been able to do the research. Thanks!

Anonymous AK Dave said...
That Rockets team was awesome. And Rudy T was right- every team they beat was Championship-quality. That happens when you're a 6-seed and you have to go through 4 sure-fire HOF centers/PF's on your way to the championship. Greatest road to the championship and one of the best underdog stories that I can remember in sports.

Anonymous StottsEra said...
id like to point out, on the 2 Live Stews radio show (I live in atlanta, where it's from) Dennis Scott (from this magic team) was sitting in for one of the stews.

Anyways Scott has a reputation around here for being one of the worst broadcasters around - you can see evidence of that from video here - and own the 'Stews' show yesterday they were comparing this year's magic to the 95 magic. 3D chimed in with something to the tune of "We (the 95 team) was better cause you had to double 2 guys at all time, if you weren't doubling shaq you had to double penny and then you had to find nick anderson and then you had to find me coming off screens"
really i cant begin to explain how ridiculous it sounded, if you follow atlanta sports that will probably be funnier to you

Blogger chris said...
Man, Pete Chilcutt...Tony Battie's hero!?

Blogger chris said...
Karc: But the greatest one has to be 1969, where Jack Kent Cooke was already planning the celebration...and the Celtics got wind of the planned end-of-game balloon release at the Fabulous Forum.


Blogger chris said...
And I just have to ask: are those three full trillions from Chilly Pete, or is there a Mario sneaking in there somewhere that may have been lost to time!?

Blogger Clifton said...
Nomination for WotP(sf) [Worst of the Playoffs (so far)]:

I listen to games while driving a lot; the ones I would listen to (Suns games, or now the playoffs/Finals) typically tend to be on in the early evening, when I'm shuttling around for work, and if our local ESPN Radio affiliate is carrying another lousy D-Backs game, I can get the hoops on my XM.

Anyhow, so, during the Conference Finals, I realized how truly awful the announcing tandem of Jim Durham and Dr. Jack Ramsay have become. Seriously, five years ago I could have listened to the two of them describing paint drying and it would have been must-tune-in radio. Dr. Jack's been on the decline for a couple of years now (I know he's been battling health issues), but somewhere between last season and this season, Jim Durham has REALLY started to slip. A typical possession from the Lakers-Nuggets series might have sounded something like this:

"So, Kobe brings it across halfcourt... passes it off to Gasol at the top of the key.............. and... Odom has it underneath, and......................... it's Kobe from the foul-line and it's good!"

He would just seem to lose track of where the ball had gone, and by the time he'd tracked it down, it was in the hoop and he'd wait a beat for the arena announcer to clue him in as to who'd hit the shot. Then, Dr. Jack would chime in with some sterling observations ("Denver is down 12 now, J.D.-- they need to score points here!") or one of his trademark lines which just repeated what Jim Durham had stumbled through (J.D.: "Underneath to Gasol and he jams it!" Dr. Jack: "They got the ball in to the big Gasol and he put it through with a two-handed stuffa!!"). And if it was quick up-'n-down action, forget it. I actually started switching off the early parts of games if they were announcing, because you were getting better play-by-play from listening in the gaps of J.D.'s commentary to players/coaches yelling and the crowd's reaction to the game.

On the other hand, Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown called the Eastern Conference finals on the radio, and THEY were great. Tirico has that fast-paced patter down, like Al McCoy, always telling you where everyone's at on the floor (even pointing out players moving without the ball), and then Hubie Brown would wait for an inbounds or something to make genuinely helpful analysis.

So, the end result of this comment is: I'm interested to find out which direction they'll go with the play-by-play. Unfortunately, Tirico and Hubie are their best TV crew, too. I'm selfishly hoping that they give the TV side to the Breen-JVG-Mark Jackson team, which would mean I get Tirico and Hubie on the radio. If I wind up stuck with Jim Durham and Dr. Jack Ramsay, well... sigh... pass the Ensure.

Blogger Clifton said...
Also, one other note... @ Tree Rollins, wasn't he a player/coach on that squad? He'd come in and spell Shaq if the Diesel needed a breather, but for the most part I think he was more involved in the coaching side of things.

Blogger Marmatard said...
My family and I loved those 90s Rockets, especially Hakeem. It was a pleasure watching him in his prime. Outside of Nowitzki I can't think of another 7-footer that is/was so silky smooth on the court (at least in my lifetime).

And I would've loved the Lakers implosion last year if it did not involve the city of Boston.

Blogger Unknown said...
The Suns where the first team to lose game 1&2 at home in the finals in 93.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...

I've noticed the Hubie-Tirico end of your monologue, as I think everyone has.

Hubie is the perfect blend of old guy coaching knowledge, modern day comparisons, and classic analogies from back in the day. Tirico always gives you a good stat and leaves out the dumb stuff, while still maintaining play-by-play.

And this is all just what I've seen from mid-season stuff. I'm sure the playoff radio broadcasts are probably of an even higher level.

If I could choose two guys to commentate every game I ever listen to from here on out, I would pick those two, plus Bill Walton chiming in from time to time.

I don't even know how to feel about this, it isn't bawful.

What a strange sensation, to be excited about anything vaguely pertaining to basketball, especially when the Finals is about to begin and it's a match-up between one team I hate and the team that put my squad out.

Strange indeed.

Blogger KNEE JERK NBA said...
Ah, Tree Rollins. Famous for biting Danny Ainge's finger in a fight.

Anonymous Doctor Flarb said...
For me the best moment of the '95 Finals was Game 3, when houston played 'It's a Small World' during Orlando's player introductions. That was one of those rare 'are they really doing that?' moments.

Sure the NBA came down on houston for doing it, but sports would be more fun if more teams would openly mock the visitors.

Blogger Yiping said...
I agree. Has there ever been a 7 footer as graceful as Hakeem? He never seemed clumsy, out of proportion, or slow like most other 7 footers out there.

He was pretty durable for someone that tall, was dominant on both ends of the floor, hit a decent percentage of his FTs, and seemed like a likeable guy.

It would have been fun to see the Bulls go up against them in the Finals those 2 years.

Blogger geremy said...
To marmatard, please don't ever compare hakeem to dirk, ever.


i say this as a life long suns fan that has more respect for those who have admirably ruined my dreams year after year. hakeem and jordan hold a special place in my heart (no spurs though).

Anonymous Swih said...
I'd like to comment on one of your facts about the winning team winning games 1 and 2 on the road; it's not actually the first time, right? since in 1993 finals Jordan's bulls won games 1 and 2 against Barkley's suns. just pointing out.

Anonymous Joey Joe Joe said...
So we're getting the LA's Bawful Finals performances tomorrow?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Swih -- Damn. That's what I get for blindly trusting an recap instead of, you know, thinking.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I've been open about my mancrush with Hakeem for a long time, so let me just say: <3

KneeJerkNBA gets today's True Fan award fro his recollection. Sweet.

Blogger Eduardo C said...
Am I crazy or did Tony Delk score 50 points of the bench for Phoenix a couple of years back?

Anonymous Jwoey said...

This is the only 50+ point game (or even 40+ point game) I could find for Tony Delk. He started (GS: 1) that game, but was not a regular starter (11 starts in 82 GP that season)

Anonymous hellshocked said...
Eduardo here:

Jwoey, you're right. The game I´m thinking about was in 01, Phoenix vs Sacramento but Delk didn't come off the bench. Mario Elie was injured and he filled in. I vividly rememeber watching the game and going wtf, Delk is going for 50? Has this bench scrub even scored 20? The feeling must've clouded my memory.

Anonymous Story said...
The '95 Rockets were my favorite non-Jordan-led NBA team.

Man, I forgot about all the big-time lacktators in that series. Chilcutt, Tree Rollins...

Charles Jones was one of the four or five Jones brothers who played in the NBA in the '70s and '80s. Charles had ridiculous staying power for not doing much of consequence; he was playing into his 40s.

My favorite, though, was Zan Tabak.

Blogger David Landon said...
The '95 Magic's team slogan was "Why Not Us, Why Not Now?"

Looking back, it should have been "Never Underestimate The Vagina of a Choke Artist". Bawful, one of these days you should write a post about NBA teams that were anointed by the media as the next big thing, but never won anything. In addition to the '95 Magic, the Price-Nance-Daugherty Cavs and the Mourning-LJ Hornets could be on that list.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
charles jones dominated shaq with his cerebral defense. Papa charlie was the heart and soul of the team.

no seriously though, watching him go at it with tree rollins in the finals (combined age 200) was hilarious.

Blogger Clifton said...
@ Future Guy: "Bawful, one of these days you should write a post about NBA teams that were anointed by the media as the next big thing, but never won anything."

That Shaq-Hakeem match-up was going to be "the next Bird-Magic", as have several match-ups both before that and since then. During those playoffs (maybe in the summer afterwards?) was when Taco Bell introduced the Double Decker Taco-- a crunchy taco, surrounded by a soft-taco tortilla, glued in place with beans. Not too un-tasty. They had a commercial with Hakeem and Shaq playing one-on-one, and getting into a heated argument over "crunchy" vs. "soft" (Shaq argued in favor of "crunchy" while The Dream rooted for "soft"), and as they came face-to-face ("crunchy!" "soft!" "crunchy!" "soft!"), the voiceover guy says, "Whoa, there, guys! Now you can have crunchy AND soft!"

Thus began, in earnest, the era of Taco Bell finding new ways to combine their six or seven ingredients and act like it's a complete revolution in pseudo-Mexican food.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hakeem - Greatest center of all-time.

Btw, I'm fatty McFat.