25 Years Ago Today, Michael Jordan Looked Human on the Basketball Court, Reggie Miller Did Not
Throughout his NBA career, Michael Jordan had some great days on the basketball court. May 7, 1995, was not one of them, although it did still turn out to be a historic day for Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, more than a thousand miles away, Reggie Miller had one of the most memorable days of his career with the Indiana Pacers.
Michael Jordan looked human in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals
On May 7, 1995, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls took on the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Less than two months earlier, Jordan had come back to the NBA following an 18-month hiatus wearing No. 45 and helped Chicago to a 13-4 record in their last 17 games of the regular season. He then led the Bulls to a first-round playoff series win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Orlando Magic, which featured the great trio of Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Jordan’s ex-teammate, Horace Grant, were the top seed in the East and had home-court advantage for this highly-anticipated series.
This was a back-and-forth battle throughout. The Magic led by three after the first quarter but the Bulls evened the score at the half, 43-43. Orlando took a four-point lead into the final frame and at one point led by seven, the largest lead of the game for either team. But Chicago fought back to take a one-point lead on a Toni Kukoc-to-Scottie Pippen alley-oop with 40 seconds remaining. The Magic came back down on offense but the Bulls forced a turnover with 18.1 seconds to go and called a timeout. And then it happened. Michael Jordan looked human on the basketball court.
Michael Jordan is looked at by most as the most clutch player in NBA history. He typically owned the fourth quarter but it wasn’t to be on this day. With the Bulls clinging to a 91-90 lead, Jordan took the inbound pass in the backcourt and began to dribble up the court as Magic guard Nick Anderson hounded him. But MJ spun away and moved right past him into the frontcourt. Only he never saw Anderson creeping up behind him. Anderson punched the ball away from Jordan, MJ fell to the ground and Penny Hardaway went on to find Horace Grant for the go-ahead dunk with 6.2 seconds left on the clock.
But the Bulls still had a shot at it. Jordan again took the inbound pass and everyone was expecting him to shoot. MJ raised up at the foul line but then decided in mid-air to pass to Scottie Pippen. But the pass sailed out of bounds. Two free throws later, the Magic had earned a 94-91 victory. This was just a bad day all around for MJ. He only scored 19 points in the game, shot a dreadful 8-for-22 from the floor, and made the two crucial errors down the stretch. It wasn’t typical Jordan, as Nick Anderson pointed out in the post-game press conference, which is why MJ never wore No. 45 again.
Reggie Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds against the New York Knicks
While Michael Jordan might like to forget May 7, 1995, Reggie Miller can look back on that date fondly as it was one of the most memorable days of his career. More than 1,100 miles away from Orlando, Miller and the Indiana Pacers took on the New York Knicks in Game 1 of the other Eastern Conference semifinal at Madison Square Garden. Like the Bulls and Magic, the Pacers and Knicks had a back-and-forth battle and this game also came down to the final minute, although New York seemingly had the game wrapped up.
With 18.7 seconds remaining, the Pacers were down 105-99. But they at least had possession. Taking the ball out at the hashmark in the frontcourt, Mark Jackson inbounded to Reggie Miller, who promptly put up a three-pointer and drilled it, cutting the lead to three with 16.4 seconds remaining. Things got very hectic as the Knicks tried to inbound the ball and Miller ended up knocking over Greg Anthony. But Anthony Mason threw the ball in anyway. Miller swiped it, retreated back to the three-point line and drained yet another triple to tie the game at 105-105 with 13.2 seconds on the clock and then glared right at Spike Lee, who had watched all of this go down five feet away.
For some reason, the Pacers fouled John Starks away from the ball, who had a chance to put the Knicks back on top. But he missed both foul shots. Patrick Ewing grabbed the rebound and put up a shot but that didn’t go in either. Reggie Miller grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled. He stepped up and made both free throws, giving him eight points in 8.9 seconds. Indiana now led 107-105 and that would be the final score as Greg Anthony fell down on the ensuing possession and New York never got a shot off before time expired. As Reggie Miller did in those days, he taunted the New York faithful at the Garden as the Pacers took a 1-0 series lead.
Neither Michael Jordan nor Reggie Miller made it to the NBA Finals that year
While this day in NBA history was certainly an important one for both Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, neither can look back at the end of their seasons and smile. Jordan and the Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in six games and Jordan & Co. had to watch Horace Grant being carried off the floor in Chicago by his teammates, which MJ certainly didn’t care for. As for Reggie Miller and the Pacers, they did go on to defeat the Knicks in a classic seven-game series. However, they also couldn’t get past Orlando, losing to the Magic in seven in the Eastern Conference Finals.