2009 Orlando Magic were a picture of calm in dispatching the champs

The OrlandoMagic displayed a calm confidence to defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2009 Playoffs. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The OrlandoMagic displayed a calm confidence to defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2009 Playoffs. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were not supposed to be waltz into Boston and defeat the Boston Celtics in a Game 7. But they found a champion’s clam in advancing again.

It was hard to put a finger on exactly why the Orlando Magic were able to keep up with the Boston Celtics in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a series that replayed on FOX Sports Florida this week concluding with that decisive Game 7 on Saturday.

The Celtics were the defending champions and, even though they were coming off a grueling seven-game series in the first round, were the clear favorites to win the series even without Kevin Garnett. The Celtics were strong defensively with a killer in Paul Pierce, a sniper in Ray Allen and a tactician at point guard in Rajon Rondo.

The Magic had several matchup advantages in the series. They were more versatile and used it to full effect against a depleted Celtics frontcourt. But Boston never went away. It was truly anybody’s series.

Boston was not the same team it was throughout the season or even the year before, but the team was certainly good enough to win. Especially considering many believed the Orlando Magic ran a gimmicky offense and struggled to hit from the outside in the first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Magic showed something in that series they would have to reach for once again. And perhaps a bit deeper. To defeat the defending champions, the Magic would have to find their own championship mettle.

The first-round series left the Magic finding their confidence and identity again. The second-round series was about finding the will to win. This is the series where the team became legendary and perhaps the best team in Magic history — if not, one of the most beloved and sentimental.

The seven-game series was a war between two titans in the league. It was a back-and-forth affair that could have broken an inexperienced team like Orlando at any moment.

And it almost did break the Magic. To find the will to reach the Finals and create the unforgettable moments they would create in that Playoff run, they had to come together and but out a series win over the Celtics.

Magic and Celtics go back and forth

The series with the Boston Celtics was far from easy. The Orlando Magic had to fight for everything, laying the seeds for a rivalry that would continue for the next few seasons.

Orlando took a 26-point lead in Game 1, only to see Boston cut it to three late in that game. The Magic held on to steal Game 1 and home-court advantage.

They lost their composure as they lost another big lead in Game 2. Rafer Alston slapped Eddie House in the back of the head, getting ejected and suspended as the Celtics won.

After a Game 3 win, Glen Davis seemed to turn the tide of the series. The future Magic big man drained a tough jumper at the buzzer as the Magic scrambled to stop Paul Pierce. The series was tied heading back to Boston.

Game 5 went about as bad as it could have. Orlando lost a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and a 10-point lead with 5:40 to play as Dwight Howard did not take a shot in the final six minutes. He expressed his frustration postgame, calling out Stan Van Gundy, and the young team seemed to be unraveling.

Facing elimination, there was at least the inkling the Magic’s season was done. The defending champs had finally found their shooting stroke and the Magic had to defend their homecourt. The Celtics had a 32-0 record when up 3-2 in a series historically.

With the seams ripping apart, this was a gut check for the Magic.

And they passed. Dwight Howard scored 23 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in an 83-75 win. Hedo Turkoglu hit a big 3-pointer to give the Magic some breathing room late and their defense held the Celtics off the board.

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Trailing most of the game in Game 6, Orlando kept at it. Howard paced the way to the finish and everyone else did their part. The magic would live to fight another day and the series seemed truly up in the air.

The whole series to that point had been the Magic searching for their balance. Yes, they had the series lead until Game 4. But they could not really find anything consistent. Rashard Lewis had a run, then Dwight Howard and then J.J. Redick. Hedo Turkoglu was struggling. But all the pieces never came completely together.

Every lead Orlando had, Boston seemed able to erase. The early part of the series seemed more about what the Celtics were missing.

It felt like a matter of time before their championship experience would win out.

No team after all knows the “heart of a champion” better than the Magic. Orlando would find its heart to close the series.

Magic find their will to win in Game 7

The Orlando Magic had their backs against the wall in the Playoff before. Staring down a 3-1 deficit to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, the Magic needed Hedo Turkoglu to hit that game-winning shot to save the series and send it back to Orlando tied.

Dwight Howard stepped up with a 24-point, 24-rebound effort to give Orlando control of the series in Game 5. His teammates did the rest to finish things out in Game 6.

But this was different. The Celtics were a better team. They controlled large swaths of the game and had every chance to win. A play here or there could have turned any number of the games.

This was a classic seven-game series, each heavyweight delivering body blows.

Game 7 was no different. The Magic had to hold off the Celtics as long as they could. But Orlando did so with the calm and poise of a team that was indeed destined to go down in history.

Orlando hit first with a big burst to start the game, draining 3-pointers quickly with 13 in the first half. The Magic quickly staked a 10-point lead.

Howard was dominating offensively as he had to lift the team through Game 6. But he was still a presence, running to the rim and sucking in oxygen. The Magic instead turned to Turkoglu for mucho f the game. He finally had things rolling.

But the Celtics kept coming back and closing in on the lead. Ray Allen, who struggled all series with his 3-point shooting, finally found his edge. Boston made it a four-point game at the end of the third quarter on a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater.

The fourth quarter proved to be the Magic’s masterpiece. They found their will, banding together. It was not the stars that started things off, it was the role players.

Mickael Pietrus kicked off a 13-2 run with a 3-pointer before passing on a three to give it to Courtney Lee on a drive and finish with the foul. Mickael Pietrus hit another jumper and suddenly the Magic were back in firm control.

Boston made little runs to try to reach the lead. But Orlando had too much.

Turkoglu carried the Magic, using the 3-point shooting early to set up his drives, lofting that floating, arcing layup over smaller defenders on the run. It was the picture of calm. This is what champions look like.

Orlando Magic prove themselves

It was during the 2009 season Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal derisively called Stan Van Gundy the “master of panic” and predicted his yelling and intense vibe would be the Orlando Magic’s undoing. Maybe he was right to some extent with how he put his trust in Jameer Nelson’s return for the NBA Finals.

But this was the exception and not the rule. This team had a confidence and determination about it. They wanted to prove so many in the league wrong.

What stood out about Game 7 was how clinical the Magic were and how little emotion they showed on the floor. They were there to do a job.

The Magic possessed confidence from having staved off elimination a few nights before. They believed in their system and ability to hit shots and most importantly believed in each other.

In Game 7, Hedo Turkoglu led the way with 25 points and 11 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 19 and Mickael Pietrus had 17 off the bench. Dwight Howard had only 12 points, but 16 rebounds and five blocks, setting the tone defensively as he always did.

The Magic hit a bunch of threes early and kept the pressure on offensively. But more importantly, they banded together to find a way. When the Magic needed a score or needed a stop, the found a way to get it.

Their Game 7 in Boston was hardly perfect. It still felt like Orlando was getting by the skin of its teeth. It would enter a series with the Cleveland Cavaliers as heavy underdogs once again.

But winning this way only gave the Magic confidence. it only gave them further belief that they could go all the way to a title.

They very nearly did.

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It was this series that gave the Magic that winning attitude and edge. It was this series and these moments that built their championship mettle. when they faced adversity again, they had the reserve to fight back.