Magic's Win Over Warriors in Late February Has Even Greater Significance Now

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - The Golden State Warriors, to nobody’s surprise, are returning to the NBA Finals for the fifth straight season after sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in this year’s Western Conference Finals.

As you probably all know by now with how much media attention it has received, Kevin Durant hasn’t played in Golden State’s last five playoff games because of a calf strain.

Debating whether the Warriors are tougher to beat without KD is certainly not the point of this article. Everybody knows Durant is one of the greatest players in NBA history, even if Golden State continues to flourish without him.

The purpose, instead, is to highlight a very interesting fact – one that brings the Orlando Magic into the discussion.

Over their last 32 games when Stephen Curry plays and Durant doesn’t, the Warriors are 31-1.

Six of those victories came against Portland, five were over the Houston Rockets, two were against the Oklahoma City Thunder and other notable teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets, also lost to Golden State during this time with Curry in and Durant out.

The one team that did beat the Warriors, however, was the Magic, who did so this season on Feb. 28 at Amway Center.

That night, in front of a sell-out crowd, Orlando overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun Golden State with the Finals MVP of the last two years sitting out.

Aaron Gordon, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining, while D.J. Augustin converted on a layup on the Magic’s ensuing possession. The Warriors’ only points in the last three minutes came on a Jonas Jerebko layup with 48 seconds left.

Curry, who scored 33, missed five of his six shots in the fourth, while Klay Thompson failed to connect on his final three shots of the game.

Since Durant joined the team in 2016, the Warriors are 34-4 when Curry is in the lineup and Durant isn’t. The Magic, Timberwolves, Celtics and Bulls are the only teams to beat Golden State under this condition.

It remains to be seen if Durant will return for the Finals, which start May 30. The Warriors will visit the winner of the Milwaukee vs. Toronto series in Game 1, as both the Bucks and Raptors finished with better regular season records than Golden State.

The win over the Warriors was just one of many impressive victories in 2018-19 for the Magic, who made an NBA season-best 17-game win improvement from the prior year. Orlando won 11 of its 18 meetings against the Eastern Conference’s top five teams, including going 3-0 against Boston. The Magic also logged victories against the Rockets and Spurs.

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