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, Toronto Raptors
Jameer Nelson and the Orlando Magic scored a breakthrough series victory defeating the Toronto Raptors in the first round in 2008. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Ranking every Orlando Magic Playoff series

All-Time Classics

The Orlando Magic have had some very classic series and some classic series victories in their history (we only have two more series losses remaining, I promise). The Magic have had some bangers though that continue to ring true throughout Magic history.

And each one provides a moment or set the table for something greater in the Magic’s history.

10. 2008 1st Round: Defeated Toronto Raptors, 4-1

Everyone needs a first. The first time the Orlando Magic probably realized they had the basis of a long-lasting, perhaps championship-level team came in the 2008 first round.

The Magic were coming off their first playoff series and were the surprise Southeast Division champions. Dwight Howard earned an All-Star start. Rashard Lewis proved to be a critical free agent signing. And Stan Van Gundy raised the standard for the team.

They still needed to prove it in the playoffs. The Magic had not won a playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal’s final year in 1996. It was a long dozen years.

But Howard learned from his first playoff stint and made his presence known. In the five-game series against the Toronto Raptors, he averaged 22.6 points, 18.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. He just dominated the interior and made this series a cakewalk for Orlando into the second round.

9. 2009 NBA Finals: Lost to Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1

The end of the 2009 Playoffs run for the Orlando Magic ended in something of a disappointment. The team was flying high after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and getting the chance to stand up to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a lot of ways, the team held its own against the Lakers. They forced overtime in a Game 2 loss thanks to Hedo Turkoglu’s block on Kobe Bryant’s game-winning shot (a play that deserves a lot more recognition than the Pau Gasol goaltend that was not called).

Orlando even earned its first Finals win with an incredible shooting performance in Game 3 of the series — 62.5 percent shooting set a Finals record for a single game.

Alas, free throws undid the Magic yet again. With the lead in Game 4, Dwight Howard missed four free throws (not all in one sitting) down the stretch. And the Magic made two critical errors — going too fast and allowing a fast-break to cut into a five-point lead and pressing when up three allowing Derek Fisher to hit a game-tying three. The Lakers got another late three from Fisher and took a commanding 3-1 series lead.

This series was closer than a lot of people probably remember — two overtime games means it could have been 3-1 Orlando just as easily as 3-1 Los Angeles. But the Lakers were probably always the better team.

8. 2009 1st Round: Defeated Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2

When the Orlando Magic entered the 2009 Playoffs, there were definitely heightened expectations. There were also still a lot of doubts that this team that relied so heavily on their 3-point shooting could succeed in the playoffs. Somehow the Magic got tested immediately on every one of their philosophies.

The Philadelphia 76ers capped off a 20-point comeback at the Amway Arena with an Andre Iguodala jumper to steal Game 1. Then Thaddeus Young hit a putback late in Game 3 to send the Magic down 2-1. Orlando was really on the ropes in the fourth quarter of Game 4, trailing by one point.

Then Hedo Turkoglu saved the day and added to his lore. The game-winning shot in Game 4 might really have calmed the team down and defined who they are and the confidence they would need to make their run to the Finals.

If that did not do it, winning Game 6 on the road with Dwight Howard suspended for a flagrant foul in Game 5 certainly did. It was not a clean series win, but it started something and showed the Magic would match up with anyone.

7. 1995 1st Round: Defeated Boston Celtics, 3-1

The Orlando Magic’s first playoff series win is kind of forgotten in many ways, unfortunately. The Magic had to deal with the ghosts of the past in the Boston Garden and the exuberance of their own youth. But it ended in a win — and Shaquille O’Neal officially closing the Boston Garden.

The Magic were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Celtics made the playoffs with just 36 wins (a true rarity). They looked like it with a truly celebratory 47-point win in Game 1 at the Orlando Arena.

But there was adversity and even Game 4 was not a sure thing, requiring a late putback from O’Neal to officially close the Garden with a 95-92 victory.

This 1/8 matchup was anything but routine for a team and a group that had never won a playoff series. But they got that first one under their belt and it was a historic victory at that.

6. 1995 NBA Finals: Lost to Houston Rockets, 4-0

Perhaps the greatest What If in Orlando Magic history.

What if Nick Anderson had made one of those final four free throws to clinch a victory in Game 1?

Would the Magic have been able to win a championship? How much of Magic history would have changed if the franchise had a ring in hand and did not have to carry the disappointment of that loss with them.

Magic fans have never truly blamed Anderson the way the national media has. Orlando lost a 20-point lead from the first half and still had to defend a 3-pointer (Kenny Smith hit the three to send the game to overtime after those free throws) and had the chance to win it in overtime — a putback from Hakeem Olajuwon won the game.

Then again, the loss took the Magic completely out of themselves. It pierced their veil of youthful confidence. The Magic have admitted that in interviews since — including in This Magic Moment.

And perhaps the ultimate lesson was never to question the heart of a champion.