Orlando Magic 35th Anniversary: Ranking every Orlando Magic playoff series

The Orlando Magic have been to the NBA Finals twice in their franchise history and have made plenty of playoff memories and heartaches along the way. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have been to the NBA Finals twice in their franchise history and have made plenty of playoff memories and heartaches along the way. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons were a mountain the Orlando Magic had to constantly scale in the playoffs. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) /

Ranking every Orlando Magic Playoff series

The Pistons

The Orlando Magic have faced no other team more times in the playoffs than the Detroit Pistons. It is not much of a rivalry though. The Magic have mostly had to overcome the Pistons. It was a hurdle for them to climb over to get where they need to go.

Still, the Magic’s series with the Pistons (save for one that we will get to later) have been largely unremarkable. More a part of bigger journeys for the Magic rather than classic matchups.

23. 1996 1st Round: Defeated Detroit Pistons, 3-0

Did you remember the Orlando Magic swept the Grant Hill-led Detroit Pistons in his first playoff series back in 1996? No? Nobody would really expect you to remember this ho-hum, dominant series.

The 1996 Eastern Conference Playoffs was all about the eventual showdown and rematch between the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. Everything else was a formality.

As was this series. The Magic won the first two games in Orlando by 20 and 15 points respectively before holding off the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills by three points (Allan Houston scored 33 points!) to complete the franchise’s first-ever playoff series sweep and their only playoff series win over the Pistons.

22. 2007 1st Round: Lost to Detroit Pistons, 4-0

It made some sense that the Orlando Magic’s triumphant return to the playoffs after a three-year absence would come against the team that seemingly embarrassed them in their previous playoff trip (more on that later).

Dwight Howard made his playoff debut in 2007 as the Magic earned the 8-seed. But this was clearly a championship-level team putting a playoff debutante in their place. The Pistons ran through the Magic like a 1 seed should over the 8 seed (that did not happen in 2003, which we will get to later again).

The closest margin in this series was the Magic’s four-point Game 4 loss that ended the series. Orlando got blown out in Game 3 at the TD Waterhouse Centre by 16 points. This was just a bad matchup with a team that was not ready for this level of brutal defensive efficiency.

Dwight Howard had a solid playoff debut averaging 15.3 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. But Orlando’s defense under coach Brian Hill could not generate enough offense to break Detroit’s defense down. It was a bad matchup.

It was also a loss that inspired a lot of change. The Magic fired Brian Hill after the season and hired Stan Van Gundy (ignore the Billy Donovan week). They also decided to hand the leadership reigns over to Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, letting Grant Hill depart after seven frustrating years. They used that cap space to sign Rashard Lewis.

Things indeed were starting to click into place.

21. 2008 2nd Round: Lost to Detroit Pistons, 4-1

Hey, at least the Orlando Magic were able to get one win off the Ben Wallace/Chauncey Billups/Richard Hamilton Detroit Pistons team in their second matchup.

The young Magic team won its first playoff series — and the franchise’s first series win in 12 years — and ran headlong back into the bruising Pistons yet again. This was just a bad matchup with Rasheed Wallace still capable of locking up Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis all in one. This young Magic team just was not ready.

After his breakout showing in the first round against the Toronto Raptors (stay tuned), Howard struggled against the Pistons averaging 15.2 points and 13.4 rebounds per game with 3.0 blocks per game for good measure.

It was a frustrating series, to say the least, with the Magic scoring a win in Game 3 behind 33 points from Rashard Lewis.

This series was a preview of what the Magic would become. They needed to take this lump to understand what level they still needed to reach.

It is just too bad the Magic never got their shot to beat this Pistons group again.