Orlando Magic's 2024 series with Cleveland Cavaliers brings back 2009 memories

The Orlando Magic will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2024 NBA Playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. The first time was a historic victory for the Magic.
The Orlando Magic will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. The first was a historic Eastern Conference Finals victory.
The Orlando Magic will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. The first was a historic Eastern Conference Finals victory. / Pool/GettyImages

The first series between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers was historical.

There was a player in LeBron James who was taking the league by storm to win his first of now four MVP Awards. NBA fans were already beginning to discuss James as one of the greatest players fo all time and they all had their eyes on the marquee matchup in the Finals between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

James though had to get through an all-time defender in Dwight Howard. It was the kind of star clash that would be for the marquee -- and two of the most popular players in the league at the time.

It was a different era. The other All-Stars in that series were Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson (who missed the series due to injury) and Mo Williams. This was a series about the stars but also whose role players would step up.

In 2009, just as they already are in their upcoming 2024 series, the Magic were considered the underdog because they lost more games than the Cavaliers and the Cavaliers had James. Nike already made the puppets to promote the potential Finals series with Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Magic finished the 2009 season with a 59-23 record and were mere the upstarts. Their 3-point shooting style and smiling star player won a shocking seven-game series with the Boston Celtics. They were not supposed to make it this far. And they were not supposed to compete with the Cavaliers.

Almost immediately, Orlando put Cleveland and the NBA world on notice. The Magic stole homecourt advantage with a rousing come-from-behind victory in Game 1, defeating the Cavs 107-106.

Howard scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the victory, destroying the shot clock on a dunk on the game's opening possession. James scored 49 points and had eight assists to kick off his incredible series.

Orlando erased a 16-point lead in the first quarter, battling back slowly and methodically to get back into the game. Rashard Lewis hit one of the most unrecognized game-winners in Magic history, draining a three over Anderson Varejao 14.7 seconds left to give the Magic the victory.

Game 2 of that series is the one game that gets replayed ad nauseum from this series. James' buzzer-beating game-winner (his first of his playoff career) is the kind of stuff that legends are made of and became an easy highlight to show of James' budding greatness.

Dwight Howard came back down to earth as he was outscored by Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mo Williams and Delonte West -- Howard had 10 points to go with 18 rebounds. But Orlando got a boost from Rashard Lewis' 23 points and Hedo Turkoglu's 21. That included a go-ahead bucket from Turkoglu as the Magic again rallied from a deep deficit.

But the Magic lost the game because of a last-second heave from James. It has become one of the greatest last-second shots in NBA Playoff history.

In Game 3 back in Orlando, James was on a tear scoring from everywhere as he seemed to do everything in his power to get the first game in Orlando. James finished with 41 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Although James filled up the stat sheet as he did the entire series, the Cavs came up short once again losing to the Magic 99-89. Dwight Howard had 24 points and role players Rafer Alston (18 points) and Mickael Pietrus (16 points) stepped up to pace the Magic and keep them ahead to stay in control of the series.

Game 4 was a huge win for Orlando and it seemed like a coronation because the Magic put a chokehold on the series by going up 3-1.

James ended Game 4 with 44 points, seven assists and 12 rebounds, while Dwight Howard scored 27 points, four assists and 14 rebounds. He was unstoppable in the paint.

The Cavaliers had no answer for Howard, which is why they were a Lebron James heave from being swept in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.

Still, the Magic needed some big shots to secure the 116-114 overtime victory. Lewis hit the shot of the series for the Magic, coming around a screen to bury a three with 4.1 seconds remaining to give the Magic a two-point lead. James tied it at the foul line, but Orlando held on in overtime for the win.

The Cavaliers faced elimination in Game 5 back at home and were not going to lose.

Remember, this was a team that won 61 games in the regular season. They came out with a victory on their minds from the opening tip and made short work of the Magic. James led the Cavs with 37 points and his sidekick Mo Williams added another 24 and Cleveland beat the Magic, 112-102.

That set up Game 6 at the Amway Arena and likely a must-win for the Magic to avoid returning to Cleveland. It became a legacy game for Howard and perhaps the best game of his career.

He dominated the game. Although James was playing, Howard was the best player on the court in Game 6. Howard finished the game with 40 points, four assists and 14 rebounds. His presence in the paint was felt throughout the entire series and none more than in the final game that decided the series.

The Magic reached their second NBA Finals and sent the Cavaliers home frustrated at falling short of the NBA Finals once again.

In the end, Howard averaged 25.8 points per game and 13.0 rebounds per game in the series. But it was everybody stepping up to help the Magic topple The King. Rashard Lewis averaged 18.3 points per game and Hedo Turkoglu averaged 17.2 points per game. Orlando's shooting was a big difference with the team hitting 40.8 percent of its threes in the series.

That was enough to counteract an incredible series from James, who averaged 38.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game and 8.0 assists per game.

It was one of the hallmark series in Magic history. It was one of their greatest victories.

Next. Magic arrive playoffs 04.15.24. Orlando Magic have arrived to the Playoffs. dark

The 2024 rematch between the two franchises will not have nearly the star power or stakes as that Eastern Conference Finals series. But it should again be a defensive battle and an interesting clash of styles as the two teams meet again in the Playoffs.