Magic-al season continues into Finals

Pick a moment.

Dwight Howard has been huge in delivering the Orlando Magic back to the finals.

Dwight Howard has been huge in delivering the Orlando Magic back to the finals.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Pick a moment.

All-star point guard Jameer Nelson going out with a shoulder tear in February. Dwight Howard calling out coach Stan Van Gundy for not getting the ball enough, or losing on four last-second shots in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic have survived it all to reach the NBA final.

“We’ve been through everything you could possibly go through in the playoffs in one season,” Van Gundy said.

The Magic knocked off the defending champion Boston Celtics after falling behind in the series 3-2. They eliminated LeBron James and the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, and now Orlando is back in the final for the first time since 1995. Game 1 is Thursday night at Los Angeles.

But the Magic aren’t yet satisfied.

“You can look at everybody in the locker-room’s eyes as well as coach and tell that we are happy about getting to the final, but we are not tremendously happy enough yet,” forward Rashard Lewis said. “We like winning that silver basketball, but I think the gold basketball will be a little better than that silver one.”

The franchise has been here before.

Orlando’s only other final appearance ended swiftly, getting swept by the Houston Rockets. After Shaquille O’Neal bolted for Los Angeles in the summer of ’96, the franchise collapsed.

The Magic hit bottom in the 2003-04 season, with coach Doc Rivers getting fired and star Tracy McGrady demanding a trade.

They were 21-61 that season.

The No. 1 pick brought them another Superman.

Howard has talked about winning a title since he was drafted out of high school. The 23-year-old has quickly honed his skills, and his rare combination of size and speed has helped the Magic rise again.

“I think we started to bring back some magic in Orlando,” Howard said. “I felt that we were a laughing stock around the league. Everybody played the Magic, they thought about Disney World. So I just wanted to change that.”

Consider it done.

Howard had 40 points and 14 rebounds in a dominating Game 6 win Saturday night to power the Magic to a 4-2 series win over Cleveland. Things aren’t getting any easier.

“Our reward is, especially mine and my coaching staff’s, is you get to go from preparing for LeBron to preparing for Kobe,” Van Gundy said sarcastically. “That will be a lot of fun.”

Any test the Magic face they will likely be ready for — they’ve passed everything already.

Nelson went down in early February, and only a trade-deadline deal to get Rafer Alston from Houston kept them as contenders. Then came the playoffs, which has provided the ultimate heartbreak and satisfaction.

Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young each hit shots in the final moments to give Philadelphia wins in the first round series against the Magic. But they survived.

They lost on a Glen Davis’ shot as time expired in Game 4 of their second round series against Boston. And after the Magic blew a fourth-quarter lead in a devastating Game 5 meltdown, Howard publicly challenged Van Gundy for not getting him the ball enough. But they survived.

Then came the league MVP.

James averaged more than 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the conference final, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Game 2 and a triple-double to steal Game 5. But again the Magic survived.

“I don’t think very many people thought we could win with all the stuff we’ve been through,” Van Gundy said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ponoka RCMP said Traytyn Okeymow, 22, was last seen at this residence at about 9:45 p.m. on April 4. (Photo contributed)
Missing man located by Ponoka RCMP

Ponoka RCMP seek public’s help

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP lay cattle rustling, drug and firearm charges in Clearwater County

A cattle rustling investigation in Clearwater County led to firearms and drug… Continue reading

(File photo by Advocate staff)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement after a meeting of the college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans Wednesday for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023. (John Thys, Pool via AP)
EU reaches major climate deal ahead of Biden climate summit

Provisional deal reached after officials negotiated through the night

Mountain Men’s Barbershop co-owners Laura-Lee Gambee, left, and Heidi Forster pose in their Collingwood, Ont., shop in an undated handout image. Small business owners and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses say companies started in the months leading up to COVID-19 or those that opened during the pandemic don’t qualify for the recently-extended rent or wage subdies or a new hiring subsidy the government announced Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiley VanderMeer
New, young small businesses left out of federal budget want more aid: CFIB

Eligibility requirements for subsidies need improving

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

FILE - Ted Nugent performs at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Aug. 16, 2013. Nugent revealed he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus — months after he said the virus was “not a real pandemic.” “I thought I was dying,” Nugent says in a Facebook live video posted Monday. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)
Ted Nugent, who once dismissed COVID-19, sickened by virus

Rocker a supporter of ex-President Donald Trump

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Most Read