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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Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic, Raymond Felton, Charlotte Bobcats
Apr 26, 2010; Charlotte, NC, USA; Orlando Magic guard Jameeer Nelson (14) dribbles the ball against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half in game four of the first round of the 2010 NBA playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Magic win 99 to 90. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Ranking every Orlando Magic Playoff series

Mixed Bag

20. 2010 1st Round: Defeated Charlotte Bobcats, 4-0

My favorite locker room story in my time covering the Orlando Magic was when I was running quotes for the AP and I was in the Boston Celtics’ locker room. Jameer Nelson and Gerald Wallace were razzing each other in the locker room with Nelson talking about how the 2010 Orlando Magic swept Wallace’s Charlotte Bobcats.

Wallace’s only remark to blunt the criticism was that it was a close series. That was not going to quiet the always talkative Nelson (at least in the locker room) as he espoused how much the Magic ran the Bobcats out of the gym four times.

In some respects, they were both right.

The Magic won this really ugly and defensive-minded series by an average margin of 9.3 points per game with only one double-digit victory in the mix — a 92-77 win in Game 2. But none of those games ever felt particularly close.

Nelson was the hero in this series, averaging 23.8 points per game as the Bobcats could send size and defensive chops at every other position with Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler.

Not at Nelson though, he effectively ended Raymond Felton’s career as a starter in this series.

19. 2012 1st Round: Lost to Indiana Pacers, 4-1

By the time the Orlando Magic got to the end of the lockout-shortened 2012 season, everyone was exhausted. The Dwight Howard drama had consumed the team. And it was of some relief when he left the team to deal with his back injury rather than stay with the team.

Orlando reshaped itself after that injury into the “We all we got” bunch headlined by Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and Jason Richardson. They played hard and with some defiance that they were going to hold their spot despite not having their superstar.

That can only take you so far. But the Magic’s 81-77 win in Game 1, powered by a trademark late-game 3-point surge from Jason Richardson (17 points, 5-for-8 shooting from three including a go-ahead three with 1:07 left) spawned the Chris Duhon travel dance. So that is a good thing.

This though was clearly the end. By the time the series was over, everyone knew Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith would be moving on. And that the Magic would have to conclude the Dwight-mare at some point soon.

18. 2011 1st Round: Lost to Atlanta Hawks, 4-2

The Orlando Magic did not have the kind of season they hoped for after their 2010 run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Their title window seemingly quickly closed under the pressures of the problem of more and in-fighting within the roster (and apparently the grating style of Stan Van Gundy).

Howard had his best individual season and probably should have won MVP in 2011. But the trades in December that sent out Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus and brought in Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas just plainly did not gel.

This series was immensely frustrating because the Atlanta Hawks decided to single-cover Dwight Howard and dare someone else to beat them. Nobody on the roster could. And the bet paid off with Jamal Crawford hitting clutch shots in a four-point Game 3 win and a three-point Game 4 win. Those changed the series.

J.J. Redick’s missed wide-open three in the three-point Game 6 loss in Atlanta still haunts the team. But as the Magic walked off the floor this game, it started the whispers of Howard wanting to leave (not helped by the lockout that locked the team away from him all offseason) and signaled the end of the Magic’s championship window.

17. 1994 1st Round: Lost to Indiana Pacers, 3-0

The Orlando Magic’s first trip to the Playoffs was a really special one for sure. The Magic rode second-year big man Shaquille O’Neal and rookie guard Anfernee Hardaway right into the 4th seed and home-court advantage.

The first playoff series though was a come-to-Earth moment. The Magic as plucky and youthful as they were quickly learned that the Playoffs are different. Byron Scott’s 3-pointer gave the Indiana Pacers a shocking Game 1 win at the Orlando Arena. The Pacers doubled down with another tight victory in Game 2 to put the Magic on the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series.

Reggie Miller scored 29.0 points per game as the Pacers used their experience to advance to the second round and leave the young Magic thinking about their future.