Magic Masters: The Finals — 2009 vs. 1996, Part II

Magic Masters is Orlando Magic Daily’s attempt to recognize the best in Magic history. In this edition, we are trying to rank the best teams in Magic history. To see the full tournament bracket, visit the introduction page. Today is it. The championship finale. The poll will be open for a week after this post. Remember to read Part 1 of this matchup:

A quick note before we dive into the WhatIfSports.com matchup between these two teams. The debate will rage on over which Magic era was better between the 1995-96 teams and the 2009-10 teams. The 2009 team has a slight edge over 1996 in the finals matchup right now.

I would be remiss if I did not pass this link along though and mention some of the historic dominance of the 2009-10 teams.

John Hollinger crunched the numbers in the way only he can to come up with the 50 greatest playoff runs since 1967. The 2010 Magic came in at 38th with their 10-4 run to the conference finals. Here is what he had to say:

“Orlando nearly matched Cleveland’s feat in the playoffs a year earlier, both by dominating the first two rounds and by falling short as heavy favorites in the conference finals. The Magic needed just eight games to make it there, sweeping aside Charlotte with ease and then breaking records left and right in a historic dismantling of the Hawks … one that included a 43-point rout in the opener and a 30-point beating in Atlanta in Game 3. Through two rounds, their only game closer than nine points was a four-point squeaker over the Bobcats in Game 3.

“The Celtics would prove a tougher foe, however. The Magic lost two tight games at home and were blown away in Game 3 before recovering. They managed an overtime win in Game 4 to extend the series and crushed the Celtics in Orlando in Game 5, but ultimately fell in six games.”

In the process, though, Orlando also faced and topped some of the teams on the list. The 2009 Lakers came in at No. 22, the 1995 Rockets came in at No. 27 and the 2009 Cavaliers were No. 34. Those were some pretty good teams that the Magic went up against in those Playoff runs. Just some food for thought. On to our matchup:

Game 1 — 1996 123, 2009 110

The 1996 team lived true to Dennis Scott’s prediction, taking home-court advantage from the 2009 team. Except it was not Penny Hardaway doing damage, it was Scott himself! Scott scored 24 points, shooting 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. Doing what Dennis Scott does. All five 1996 starters scored in double figures as the team shot better than 50 percent against the defensive-minded 2009 team.

The 2009 Magic got a big game from Dwight Howard — 29 points, seven rebounds — but they could not get the offense going. Not until a 67-point second half as they chased the lead. Eventually the 1996 offense just overwhelmed at the end.

Game 2 — 2009 114, 1996 91

This game shows some fo the inconsistency of the 1996 team. The 1996 squad was strong offensively, but inconsistent defensively. And that is what held the 1996 team back and probably prevented them from competing with the Bulls that season. A strong defensive team like the 2009 Magic was going to catch them at some point.

The 2009 team put on an offensive onslaught in the second half with 40-23 third quarter and a 24-14 fourth quarter. Hardaway had his game with 23 points and 10 assists, maybe previewing what will come when the series shifts a few blocks over to Orlando Arena (in my mind, at least). Dwight Howard had 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 3 — 1996 103, 2009 93

Shaquille O’Neal likes to needle Dwight Howard in real life. But rarely in these What If matchups have I seen, at least, O’Neal flat out dominate Howard. This matchup is so tantalizing that you believe Howard’s defense would slow down the young O’Neal. But occassionaly star players shine. O’Neal did that in Game Three with 27 points and 14 rebounds.

The 2009 team got within five in the fourth quarter but could not get any closer. Dwight Howard had 22 points and Jameer Nelson added 17 points for the 2009 team that struggled to 8 for 26 shooting beyond the arc.

Game 4 — 1996 122, 2009 105

The 1996 team puts the 2009 team on the brink of elimination with another blowout victory. Another balanced effort from the 1996 team led the way as no one was able to support Dwight Howard in the end for 2009. Balance has been key in this series as 1996 put five players in double figures including 13 from Brian Shaw. Hardaway had 15 points and nine assists.

The 2009 team scored only 10 points in the third quarter, allowing the 1996 team to take control of the game and run away with it. The 2009 team had 12 3-pointers and scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, but could not slow down the fast break attack from the 1996 team. The offensive numbers the 1996 team could put up are simply astounding, even against a strong defense like 2009.

Game 5 — 1996 98, 2009 90

The 1996 team won the matchup series with the 2009 team in a rare defensive struggle in this series. The 1996 team just had too much offense. Penny Hardaway had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead another group of five players in double figures, a constant theme throughout the simulated series.

The 2009 team’s offense was just too inconsistent and the defense, while good, could not slow down a fast-break offense with the dominant O’Neal and Hardaway. It was a good matchup for 1996. They match up extremely well and that bears out throughout the series.

What do you think? Do you agree with the result of this series? Is the 1996 team the winner?

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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