As Magic fans go through a period of having no basketball to watch, it’s a perfect time to look into the past and reminisce on some of the greatest moments in Magic history, starting with their magical run to the 2009 NBA Finals.
As the 2008-2009 NBA season came into focus, the Magic were looked at as major players under Stan Van Gundy after finishing the 2007-2008 season as division champions and advancing to the second round, where they fell to the Detroit Pistons, 4-1.
As the regular season came into full swing, the Magic proved that they were a team on a mission to build on what they had started the year before. The Magic finished the regular season with a record of 59-23, finishing third in the East behind the 66-16 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 62-20 Boston Celtics.
The Magic’s postseason mission began at Amway Arena against the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite Dwight Howard’s 31-point, 16-rebound performance, the Magic fell to the Sixers 100-98 as Andre Iguodala hit the game-winner with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Game Two would again emanate from the Amway Arena with a second sellout crowd of 17, 461 fans. The Magic bounced back in Game 2, led by Courtney Lee, who had a team-high 24 points scoring 24 points in Orlando’s 96-87 win to even the series. Game 3 would lead the Magic to the first game in Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center. The underdog Sixers were again victorious in Game 3, winning 96-94, on a lay-in by Thaddeus Young with 2.2 seconds left.
That set the stage for a must-win Game 4 for the Magic. With the score tied at 81 in the closing seconds, Hedo Turkoglu hit the game-winning three for an 84-81 Magic win.
The Magic would win the next two convincingly, with a 91-78 win in Game 5, and a 114-89 series-clinching win in Philadelphia in Game 6 (without the suspended Dwight Howard), behind a 29-point performance from Rashard Lewis.
After vanquishing the 76ers, the Magic would go into Boston to face the Celtics, who were looked at as the favorites to battle Cleveland in the Conference Finals. The Magic were determined to make this dream a nightmare for Celtic fans, going up by as many as 28 points in Game 1. The Celtics trimmed the lead to three in the closing seconds, but the Magic held on for a 95-90 win.
Game 2 would not hold the same fortune for Orlando as they would lose in a blowout, 112-94. The Magic responded in Game 3 by giving the Celtics a taste of their own medicine and blowing them out 117-96. The Magic were seconds away from a 3-1 series lead until Glen “Big Baby” Davis hit a buzzer-beater to give the Celtics a 95-94 win.
The Celtics then won Game 5, 92-88, to take a 3-2 series lead.
With their season on the line at home, Orlando looked to force a Game 7, and did so by a score of 83-75. The Magic then when into Boston and beat the Celtics on their home floor in Game 7, delivering an astounding performance with a 101-82 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Conference Finals would bring the Magic to Northeastern Ohio to battle LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Just as had been the case in the previous series, the Conference Finals would be a hard-fought battle, with the Magic winning Game 1, 107-106.
Payback would be in order by the Cavaliers in Game 2 as the Cavaliers won another battle, 96–95 on a buzzer-beater from James.
Tied at 1-1, the series shifted to Orlando and Magic fans would have a game to be proud of, with the Magic winning 99-89. Game 4 would be one to remember in Magic lure as the two teams went back and forth and the Magic ultimately came out on top, 116–114, in overtime.
With a series lead of 3-1, everything looked great for the Magic as they looked to secure the Eastern Conference championship in enemy territory at the Q. Orlando put up a resilient performance, turning a 22-point deficit into an eight-point lead, but it was not enough to stop the Cavaliers, who won 112–102. In Game 6, the Magic looked to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals on their home court and that is exactly what they did with Dwight Howard posting his most impressive performance of the playoffs with 40 points and 14 rebounds in a 103-90 series-clinching win.
The Orlando Magic had a magical run to the NBA Finals as they would be poised to go up against the Los Angeles Lakers for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. After the Lakers routed the Magic in Game 1, Courtney Lee had an opportunity to even the series but was unable to convert the in-bounds alley-oop with 0.6 seconds left (goaltending?), and the Lakers would go on to win in overtime for a 2-0 series lead.
The Magic entered Game 3 with a franchise record of 0-6 in the NBA Finals, but put an end to that streak with a 108-104 victory.
The Magic were on the verge of evening the series, up five with a minute remaining, but two missed free throws by Howard and some strange defensive decisions by Stan Van Gundy and Jameer Nelson led to a game-tying three by Derek Fisher. The Lakers went on to win 99-91 in OT.
The Lakers won the title on the Magic’s home court in Game 6 with a 99-86 win. The Magic would ran into greatness that halted their championship dreams, and that greatness was Kobe Bryant. In all five games of the Finals, Bryant led the Lakers in points (40, 29, 31, 32, and 30) and assists (8, 8, 8, 8, and 5, respectively).
The Finals did not go the way that Magic fans would have hoped but one thing is for certain, their run was impressive and memorable. We can only hope that Magic will be back to the Finals sooner rather than later, but until then, enjoy the memories, Magic Nation.