Magic Masters is Orlando Magic Daily's attempt to recognize the best in Magic history. In this edition, we are trying to rank the best teams in Magic history. To see the full tournament bracket, visit the introduction page. Today, we continue the semifinals. Be sure to read the analysis with Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com of the two teams:
I have broken down the teams with the help of Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com and we can already see the pretty solid split between 1996 and 2010. These were two very good teams knocked out before the ultimate goal. They were disappointments the year after runs to the Finals and largely forgotten because of that.
Well, here they are again. Clearly among the top four teams in Magic history, this is their chance to get some much-deserved recognition.
So what would happen if the 1996 team took on the 2010 team? That is really hard to tell. A young and improving Dwight Howard against Shaquille O'Neal? The stretch-4 of Rashard Lewis going up against the hard-nosed defense and grit of Horace Grant? Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott against Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson? Does Matt Barnes start a fight with Penny Hardaway?
We are not going to answer those questions very easily. we cannot hop in a time machine and pit these two teams together with the promise of historical redemption on the table.
What we can do, is stick the team into WhatIfSports.com and figure out who might win those matchups. So, here is the seven-game series between the 1996 Magic and the 2010 Magic as simulated with WhatIfSports.com.
Game 1 -- 2010 112, 1996 105
This matchup comes down to a big matchup and how these two transcendent players will matchup. I am not talking about Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal. It seems like those two will about cancel each other out. I am talking, of course, about Horace Grant and Rashard Lewis.
Grant and Lewis play two completely different styles -- Grant the more gritty defender and Lewis the sweet-shooting 3-point specialist that spreads the floor. Lewis' ability to pull Grant away from helping on Howard and his ability to hit 3-pointers could be the difference in this series.
Game One was certainly about that. Lewis scored 29 points, hitting five of his eight 3-pointers to lead the 2010 Magic to a seven-point victory. Horace Grant played well too with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Howard and O'Neal canceled each other out for the most part (21 points, 14 rebounds for Howard and 16 points, 11 rebounds for O'Neal). Matt Barnes also provided a big lift with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Magic held a slender 103-102 lead with two minutes left after Nick Anderson hit two of three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-pointer. Orlando closed though on a 9-3 run to cement the win. Dwight Howard made two free throws with a minute left to give the Magic a three-point lead. The back-breaker though was Rashard Lewis' 3-pointer to extend the lead to six after Dennis Scott tried a 3-pointer of his own. From there, it was about making free throws, which the Magic did.
Game 2 -- 2010 106, 1996 98
Shaquille O'Neal came back with a vengeance in Game Two. And it still was not enough for 1996.
O'Neal scored 29 points on 14-for-26 shooting. Nick Anderson also had a big effort with 23 points. But the 2010 Magic were just too hot from the floor. The 2010 Magic shot a combined 51.4 percent from the floor and got to the line for 35 free throw attempts, compared to the 1996 Magic's paltry nine free throw attempts. The 1996 Magic's bench's 10 points were nearly matched by Mickael Pietrus alone in the victory.
And even with O'Neal dominating offensively, Dwight Howard still had a big game with 20 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists. The 2010 Magic just look more balanced in taking the first two games of the series at home.
The 2010 Magic held a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter and were never really threatened. The 2010 Magic took firm control of the game with a 9-0 run in a 31-22 third quarter for the 2010 Magic.
Game 3 -- 2010 109, 1996 98
In a scene right out of history, the 1996 Orlando Arena crowd was shocked to see the 1996 Magic fall behind 3-0 with a 109-98 loss. Much like the real 1996 Magic, Orlando seems to be crumbling under the pressure of a strong team with homecourt advantage in the semifinals.
Of course, nobody is confusing Jameer Nelson for Michael Jordan anytime soon.
Nelson took his turn carrying the scoring load with 17 points and four assists on 7-for-10 shooting. Dwight Howard was once again strong with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The story of this series is becoming the kind of job Matt Barnes is doing on Penny Hardaway. Hardaway had only 10 points and five assists, shooting 5 for 15 from the field in this one.
The 2010 Magic were in control of this one from the get-go. The lead rarely went below 10 points after the first quarter.
Game 4 -- 1996 98, 2010 80
The 1996 Magic staved off elimination and avoided a sweep by holding the 2010 Magic to 39 percent shooting and just 8-for-24 shooting from beyond the arc. Dwight Howard had a tough time getting going with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Shaquille O'Neal won that matchup with 21 points and 12 rebounds as the 1996 offense finally erupted.
The 1996 Magic shot 52.4 percent from the floor, finally breaking down the 2010 defense consistently. More importantly, the 1996 Magic took advantage of the occassional bad offensive game from the 2010 Magic.
A 29-16 second quarter was where the 1996 Magic took firm control, using an 18-7 stretch to get the lead out to 17 early in the second quarter. The lead was at 20 by halftime. The 2010 could not mount any serious run, getting within 12 a few times in the fourth quarter. There would be no sweep this time.
Game 5 -- 2010 120, 1996 103
The thing is though about the 2010 Magic is that you will not be able to keep them down for very long. The 2010 Magic won the series in a surprising five games, defying Josh and my predictions, with an offensive explosion, showing the kind of balance and depth that made this 2010 team truly great.
Ryan Anderson had 21 points off the bench to buoy the Magic and help the team get out to a lead in a wild fourth quarter that saw 92 points scored. The 1996 Magic won that quarter 49-43, but that was obviously not enough.
Dwight Howard had 20 points and 18 rebounds and Jameer Nelson added another 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Nelson also added 12 assists. All five 1996 Magic starters scored in double figures but Penny Hardaway continued to confuse with his poor play, scoring just 10 points in a disappointing effort for him. Matt Barnes effectively killed him in this series.
The 2010 team just slowly pulled away, getting the stops it needed to hold off any run the 1996 team had and then scoring enough to stave off any serious run.
So the question now remains, faithful voter... does this series sway your opinion? Be sure to vote on who will move on in Magic Masters!