Throughout their history, the Orlando Magic have had to deal with the devastating departures of superstars. Still however, the franchise eventually finds a way to pick itself off the mat.
On this day 15 years ago, the Magic clinched a playoff spot for the first time in the post-Tracy McGrady era. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Orlando managed to hold off the Boston Celtics, 88-86.
With the Indiana Pacers’ loss to the New Jersey Nets earlier in the day, the Magic were a victory away from their first playoff appearance in four years as they arrived at Amway Arena on April 15, 2007. Orlando was 37-42 as it got set to face the 23-56 Celtics.
For most of the second half, it looked as though the Magic would cruise to victory. A three-pointer from Keyon Dooling and a dunk from Darko Milicic gave Orlando a commanding 85-68 lead with less than seven minutes to play. The Magic however, would not score another field goal the rest of the way.
Over the next six and a half minutes, all the Magic could muster was two free throws from Grant Hill. Al Jefferson scored eight points for the Celtics during that stretch as Boston mounted an 18-2 run.
Down 87-86 with less than a minute to play, the Celtics had multiple chances to tie or take their first lead since the early parts of the second quarter, but the Magic buckled down defensively.
Delonte West turned the ball over with less than 40 seconds left, but the Magic could not take advantage. Dwight Howard was able to grab an offensive rebound for the Magic after a Jameer Nelson miss, but proceeded to miss two free throws with 13.5 seconds left.
On the next Boston possession, Rajon Rondo appeared to have an open look as he drove into the paint, but Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu was able to get a piece of his shot from behind. Howard split a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left to push the lead to two, but the Celtics still had life.
On the game’s decisive possession, Turkoglu again came up big defensively.
With time ticking away, West drove to his left. As he elevated, Turkoglu was able to get a hand on the basketball and swat it out of bounds as time expired. For the first time in four years, Orlando was playoff-bound.
Turkoglu not only made big plays on the defensive end, but he also led Orlando with 20 points. Nelson and Hill each added 16 points in the win. Dooling scored 12 points off the bench while Howard added 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Jefferson paced the Celtics with a game-high 28 points. West and Rondo added 19 and 16 points, respectively, in the loss.
The Magic would close the regular season on a four-game winning streak, but were ultimately swept by the top-seeded Detroit Pistons in the first round of the NBA playoffs. During the 2006-07 season, the Magic began a streak of five straight playoff appearances – the longest in franchise history. The first of those playoff berths was clinched on this day 15 years ago.