Magic Classic Wins: Game 6 of 2009 First Round Against 76ers

Fox Sports Florida will broadcast this win on Saturday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m.
by John Denton

ORLANDO - When the recently retired Marcin Gortat returned to the Amway Center earlier this season to take in a basketball game while sitting courtside, the former Orlando Magic center received a rousing ovation from the fans in attendance.

While seeing the 7-foot center assuredly reminded Magic fans of a time when the franchise was among the NBA’s elite teams and seriously contending for a championship, Gortat was greeted warmly once again likely because of the fond memories of his performance in Game 6 of the 2009 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was, quite frankly, a night that forever put Gortat in Magic lore for his ability to deliver in the clutch for the franchise.

With the Magic clinging to a 3-2 lead in a series where they had trailed 1-0 and 2-1 days earlier, they headed into a Game 6 in Philadelphia without the services of Dwight Howard. The superstar center, who had 24 points, 24 rebounds and two blocked shots in Orlando’s Game 5 victory, was serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Samuel Dalembert in the chest following the scrap for a rebound.

How, Magic fans wondered back in the spring of 2009, would a 59-win, second-seeded Orlando squad respond without a figure as dominant as Howard and with a center in Gortat who had only played prior in short bursts as a reserve?

Gortat and the Magic responded quite well, so much so that they throttled the Sixers 114-89 in that Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. Of course, the Magic would go on to beat the Celtics in seven games and the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in six games of the East Finals to reach the 2009 NBA Finals.

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida has used much of April and May to show select classic games from the Magic’s glorious, 31-year history. Fox Sports Florida is re-airing Orlando’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals, starting with the four first-round victories over the Sixers. The re-airing of Game 6 will be Thursday at 7 p.m., preceded by a replay of Orlando’s Game 5 win at 5 p.m. A replay of the clinching Game 6 will be shown Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Gortat, a second-round pick acquired by the Magic on draft night in 2005, worked diligently in practice throughout the 2007-08 season to turn himself into a competent NBA player. In addition to doing battle daily with Howard in practice, Gortat usually would drill with former Magic assistant coach Brendan Malone in extra sessions. That work allowed him to appear in six regular-season and eight playoff games in the 2007-08 season. By the 2008-09 season, Gortat won the backup center job and regularly showed dazzling flashes of greatness while playing behind Howard. Despite logging just 12.6 minutes a night because of Howard’s brilliance, Gortat compiled four double-doubles and averaged 3.8 points (on 56.7 percent shooting), 4.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots in 63 games (three starts).

In the playoffs, Gortat was challenged to step in for Howard, who smashed the Sixers to the tune of 24 points, 15.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks over the first five games of the series.

In that Game 6, Gortat showed off the vast potential that would ultimately allow him to play 12 NBA seasons. Facing off against Philadelphia big men Theo Ratliff, Marreese Speights and Dalembert, Gortat gave the Magic 11 points, 15 rebounds (four offensive boards), four steals and two assists in 40 minutes.

Gortat wasn’t the only fill-in who shined that night to help lead Orlando to victory. J.J. Redick, who started in place on an injured Courtney Lee, drilled five 3-pointers and chipped in 15 points and four assists in the rout. Redick made all three of his shots from beyond the arc in the first two quarters as the Magic jumped to a 14-point halftime lead.

Lee missed most of Game 5 and Game 6 with a fractured sinus cavity after he was accidentally hit by a Howard elbow as the Magic center landed following blocking a Willie Green shot.

Rashard Lewis, who struggled with his shot early in the series, had 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Game 6 to spark the Orlando offense. The Magic shot a torrid 53.7 percent from the floor and made 12 of 26 3-point shots, while the Sixers mustered just 40.8 percent accuracy from the floor.

Rafer Alston, another fill-in for weeks in place of the injured Jameer Nelson, had 21 points, 10 assists and three 3-pointers for a Magic squad that surprisingly played its most complete game of the series without Howard dominating down low.

``The only thing I said in the locker room before the game was, `Be great,’’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said in the postgame that 2009 night. ``They wanted to prove something. They have a great appreciation in that we wouldn’t be where we are without Dwight, but they wanted to prove something while playing without him.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA MAGIC CLASSIC WINS SCHEDULE

DAY

DATE

TIME

MATCHUP

REPLAY

Thu

4/30/20

8 PM

Magic at Bulls (1995 Game 3)

Sat, May 2 at 2:30 PM

Sat

5/2/20

5 PM

Magic vs Bulls (1995 Game 5)

Thu, May 7 at 8 PM

Sat

5/2/20

7 PM

Magic at Bulls (1995 Game 6)

Sun, May 3 at 10 AM

Tue

5/5/20

6 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 1)

Sat, May 9 at 12 PM

Tue

5/5/20

8:30 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 2)

Sun, May 9 at 2 PM

Thu

5/7/20

8 PM

Magic vs Pacers (1995 Game 5)

Sat, May 9 at 4:30 PM

Sat

5/9/20

8 PM

Magic vs. Pacers (1995 Game 7)

Sun, May 10 at 9:30 AM

Tue

5/12/20

6 PM

Magic vs 76ers (2009 Game 2)

Sat, May 16 at 12 PM

Tue

5/12/20

8:30 PM

Magic at 76ers (2009 Game 4)

Sat, May 16 at 2:30 PM

Thu

5/14/20

8 PM

Magic vs 76ers (2009 Game 5)

Sat, May 16 at 5 PM

Sat

5/16/20

7:30 PM

Magic at 76ers (2009 Game 6)

Sun, May 17 at 9:30 AM

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