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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Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic, Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls
The Orlando Magic faced the wall that was the Chicago Bulls and it broke the team apart. (Photo by DAVID MILLS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Ranking every Orlando Magic Playoff series

Disappointing Defeats

The Orlando Magic have of course had their share of disappointing defeats. Series that never lived up to their billing and teams that fell short. These were still memorable series but for the wrong reasons. They were missed opportunities and chances that the team would not ever get back.

13. 1996 Eastern Conference Finals: Lost to Chicago Bulls, 4-0

The entire 1996 Eastern Conference playoffs were leading up to one moment. Everybody knew the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls were on a collision course. Michael Jordan needed vengeance for his playoff defeat in 1995 and the Magic needed to prove themselves as the team of the future. . . and perhaps the team of the now.

The Bulls’ legendary 72-10 tour de force would not have mattered if the Magic upended them in the playoffs. They had the physicality to frustrate Shaquille O’Neal. But this was still a strong Magic team, perhaps the best in franchise history.

Still, this series was not everything it could be. The Bulls blew out the Magic in Game 1 and slowly injuries ate away at the Magic. By Game 4, Nick Anderson, Brian Shaw and Horace Grant were all out. And the Magic simply did not have enough firepower to stand up to the Bulls.

The discontent that characterized much of the 1996 season boiled over. And the Magic-Bulls rivalry never truly materialized.

12. 2003 1st Round: Lost to Detroit Pistons, 4-3

The most infamous playoff loss in Orlando Magic history.

Tracy McGrady was Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill. He was doing all he could and was stunning in the process, averaging 31.7 points per game in this series with the Detroit Pistons.

After back-to-back wins at the TD Waterhouse Centre, McGrady felt like he could exhale. He said the worst thing you can say in any series. A year before, he would have been able to celebrate with the league changing the first round from best-of-five to best-of-seven for the 2003 season.

The Magic though did not have the firepower to handle the Pistons in the end. They stuck rookie Tayshaun Prince on Tracy McGrady for the rest of the series and frustrated him to no end. In the process, the Pistons unlocked the door that led to their championship window.

This was also the one that felt like it closed the door for the Magic. After three straight lower-seeded flameouts in the first round, patience for Grant Hill’s health was growing thin and the roster roulette the Magic played around McGrady finally did not work.

Orlando never had a better chance to get to the second round and it was one that too easily slipped past the team.

11. 2001 1st Round: Lost to Milwaukee Bucks, 3-1

The Orlando Magic were never expected to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2/7 matchup of the 2001 first round. Not to mention the win streak the Bucks had put together over the Magic and the resentment that existed between coach George Karl and coach Doc Rivers (mostly created by Karl).

But this was the starring debut of Playoff Tracy McGrady. And what a debut it was.

McGrady averaged 33.8 points per game in the four-game series including 42 points in an overtime victory to stave off elimination in Game 3. That was one of the classic McGrady games and so this series at least gave the team an all-timer.

Orlando did use this as a bit of a springboard, finishing with the same record in 2002 only to lose again in the first round as a 5-seed instead of a 7-seed. But the raw enjoyment of McGrady figuring his own stardom out will always be a major highlight.