The 1995 NBA Playoffs were supposed to be a dream matchup of the stars of that era, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. The Bulls led 3-2 in the series against Phoenix heading into Game 6 at home. With only seconds remaining, an epic comeback was underway when Rik Smits hit two free throws to tie the game with 0:06 left on the clock for Phoenix. Despite trailing by 1 point with 4 seconds remaining, Chicago called timeout which their coach Phil Jackson took advantage of by taking out Scottie Pippen from play and putting Kukoc in as they had not lost a regular season game with him on court all year long so far…
In the 1990s, there were a lot of clutch players in the NBA. When you think about clutch performances from that decade, Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller are two names that immediately to mind.
What if I told you that one of the most clutch shots ever taken in one of the craziest NBA playoff endings in history was made by the Indiana Pacers, but the guy connected with this clutch shot wasn’t Miller?
Theatrics from the 1995 NBA Playoffs
The 1995 NBA playoffs featured enough of fantastic drama that would make a daytime soap show writer happy.
Michael Jordan, wearing number 45, had the ball stolen at the conclusion of Game 1 of the semifinal series against the Orlando Magic, losing the Chicago Bulls the game.
Jordan would return to his old number 23 for the rest of the series, but the Bulls would lose 4-2 to the Magic.
During the semifinals against the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers and their star, Reggie Miller, were also engaged in one of the most bizarre incidents in NBA playoff history.
With just 18.7 seconds remaining in the game, the Knicks had a comfortable 105-99 lead against the Pacers in Game 1 in New York.
Reggie Miller then followed up with a three-pointer, a theft of the inbounds ball, a comeback, and another three-pointer. Things seemed to be in the Knicks’ favor when a stupid foul by the Pacers’ Sam Mitchell sent John Starks to the free throw line.
Starks would miss both free shots, setting up a Miller rebound, on which he would be fouled and make both free throws… Game 1 ended with a 107-105 win for the Pacers.
The Pacers would go on to win the series in seven games, setting up a rematch with Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Magic held home-court advantage throughout the series, and they defended it by winning the first two games.
The Magic were anxious to steal the following game in Indiana to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead when they returned to Orlando after the Pacers successfully defended their home floor in Game 3.
Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals pitted the Indiana Pacers against the Orlando Magic.
The fourth game of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Orlando Magic would add to the craziness of an already bizarre playoffs.
On Memorial Day, the game was played, and by the conclusion of it, everyone was dubbing it the “Memorial Day Miracle.” Continue reading to learn why.
Despite the fact that the game was competitive throughout, the last 13.3 seconds would go down in history.
With 13.3 seconds left, the Magic had a one-point lead due to a three-pointer by Brian Shaw. The Pacers held possession with the score at 90-89.
Reggie Miller ultimately got the ball after the Pacers failed to inbound it, and he nailed a three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Miller’s three-pointer put the Pacers up 92-90 against the Magic.
The Pacers’ home court, Market Square Arena, was rocking, but the Magic players remained calm.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was awarded the ball. He pulled up for a straight-on three over Pacers player Haywoode Workman after two strong dribbles.
With 1.3 seconds left in the game, the Magic were up 93-92. The Magic seemed to have a chance to steal a game in Indiana and establish a commanding 3-1 series lead. But then there was Rik Smits.
Rik Smits comes to the rescue.
Smits was a 7’4″ Dutch basketball player. His stature didn’t always correspond to his playing style. His moniker was “The Dunking Dutchman,” yet it had nothing to do with his game.
On a frequent basis, centers venture out to take long jump shots or three-pointers. Centers of the 1990s, on the other hand, remained in the post and drove their opponents to the basket.
Smits used to back up his opponent and shoot a tiny hook shot over their heads, but he also loved to step out and smash jumpers.
Smits didn’t hit many three-pointers in his career (26 attempts, three made), but his 15-foot jump shot was as fluid as a shooting guard’s.
So, when the Pacers inbounded the ball with 1.3 seconds remaining in Game 4, it may not have surprised spectators that Smits, rather than Reggie Miller, got the ball.
Miller was well covered by the Magic, who made sure he didn’t have a chance to touch the ball. The Pacers were on the verge of committing a five-second violation, and they wanted to inbound the ball as soon as possible.
Smits sprinted up to approximately the elbow of the key on the court, collected the ball, and pivoted to face the basket when he realized Miller was no longer an option on offense.
Smits promptly pump faked the ball, releasing him from the Magic’s Tree Rollins and allowing him to take a wide-open shot.
Just before time expired, Smits would take that perfect jump shot. When the buzzer sounded, Smits’ shot swished into the goal.
The Pacers won by a score of 94-93, tying the series at two games each. Smits scored 21 points in the contest.
The Pacers went on to lose the series in seven games, falling 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row (The Pacers lost 4-3 to the Knicks in 1994).
Despite the fact that the series ended in a defeat, Rik Smits hit one of the most clutch baskets in a game that offered fans one of the most bizarre NBA playoff endings ever.
Thank you, Rik Smits, from all of us in the NBA.