Ranking every Orlando Magic Playoff series
2. 2009 Eastern Conference Finals: Defeated Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2
The NBA had its story set. Nike had brought out the puppets. Michael Jordan’s spiritual heir going up against the King of the next generation. The story wrote itself. The ads wrote themselves. And with the defending champions out of the way and a plucky team in their way, it seemed like a formality that the NBA would get its ratings bonanza.
Nobody bothered to tell the Orlando Magic about this plan. Or maybe they told them too much about it. And the Magic, as they always seem to do, played spoiler. They pushed their way into the spotlight.
They earned their way into the spotlight.
This series was something different. The Magic really looked like they were battling the world from the very start. They were trying to prove they deserved a place at the top of the mountain.
From Game 1 — a 20-point comeback capped off by a Rashard Lewis game-winning jumper in the dying moments — to Game 2 (featuring the only moment that gets replayed nationally from the series, because it was still never about the winner) to Game 4 and its killer overtime shot by Lewis on that curl along the baseline to Dwight Howard putting the exclamation mark with a 40-point, 14-rebound effort in the closing Game 6.
LeBron James was individually brilliant. And he carried the team past the Magic in Game 5 to send the series back to Orlando. But the weight was too much for him.
This was the defining series of the Magic’s 2009 Finals run. The biggest defiant mark of a team that was unknowingly changing the league with their success.
In so many ways, this was the kind of series that defines all of Magic history. They were not supposed to be there and they ruined league narratives along the way. That is the kind of series Magic fans simply love.