Doesn't it seem as if the Magic has been playing postseason games for three months now? Every other night, it has been playing huge games with jump-out-of-the-chair victories and drop-to-the-floor losses. Now the Magic prepares for the NBA Finals, beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles. But the Magic would not have reached the championship round without a handful of key victories. A look back at the five biggest victories of the postseason so far:
First round, Game 6 at Philadelphia
The Magic was a heavy favorite against the Sixers, but after Philadelphia upset Orlando in Game 1, the series became a nail-biter. The Magic took a 3-2 lead with a victory in Game 5 but lost center Dwight Howard, who was suspended for Game 6 because of an elbow on Sixers center Samuel Dalembert. No way the Magic could win a second game in Philadelphia, could it? The series seemed destined for a winner-take-all seventh game back in Orlando. But even without Howard and injured guard Courtney Lee, the Magic closed out the series as Rashard Lewis, above, scored 29 and Rafer Alston added 21 in the 114-89 victory.
Second round, Game 6 vs. Boston
The Magic seemed to be running on empty emotionally. It lost a gut-wrencher in Game 4 when Boston's "Big Baby" Davis hit a shot at the buzzer. Then in Game 5 at Boston, the Magic blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Just as things couldn't get worse, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, above, and star Dwight Howard were feuding over the offense. And there was history. The Celtics were a perfect 32-0 when leading a series 3-2. Despite trailing by as many as 10 in each half, and despite falling behind with 4:51 left, the Magic rallied and pulled out an 83-75 victory to force a Game 7 back in Boston.
Second round, Game 7 at Boston
More history was stacked against the Magic. Aside from Boston being 32-0 when leading a series 3-2, the Celtics were 17-3 in Game 7s played in Boston. Magic assistant Patrick Ewing guaranteed a victory, but this is the same Ewing who predicted several times during his playing career that his Knicks would win the NBA, and they never did. Not only did the Magic walk the walk of Ewing's talk, but it did so easily. Dwight Howard had 12 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks and Hedo Turkoglu, above, had 25 points and 12 assists as the Magic rolled to a 101-82 victory to reach the Eastern Conference final.
Eastern Conference final, Game 1 at Cleveland
Cleveland came into the series with an 8-0 record in the postseason, and it was practically unbeatable on its homecourt. The Cavs had gone 39-2 at home, and one of the losses was the last game of the season when several regulars, including LeBron James, above center, didn't even dress. But the Magic stole homecourt advantage. The Cavs got 49 points from James and took a 15-point lead into halftime, but led by 30 points from Dwight Howard and 22 from Rashard Lewis, the Magic stunned the Cavs, 107-106.
Eastern Conference final, Game 6 vs. Cleveland
This was, for all intents and purposes, a Game 7 for the Magic. After it took a 3-1 series lead then lost Game 5 in Cleveland, there was no reasonable thought that it could drop Game 6 at home then win another game at Cleveland, where the Cavs had lost only three times all season. Dwight Howard's dominating performance made sure the series would not go back to Cleveland. Superman had 40 points, while Rashard Lewis added 18 as the Magic shut down LeBron James in a 103-90 victory. The win sent the Magic to its second NBA Finals and first in 14 years.