Cohen: The Rivalry That Hasn't Happened Yet

By Josh Cohen
December 29, 2010

ORLANDO -- It’s somewhat remarkable that the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks have never played each other in the playoffs.

Since the Magic were born in 1989, Orlando and New York have been in the postseason in the same season six times and never did they cross paths.

In 1994, the first time Orlando advanced to the playoffs in franchise history, it was virtually impractical for the two clubs to meet. The Knicks, who ultimately earned a trip to the NBA Finals, were the No. 2 seed and the Magic, who were swept by the Pacers in the First Round despite having the home court advantage, were the No. 4 seed.

In 1995, the season that many NBA analysts predicted the Magic and Knicks to battle it out in the Eastern Conference Finals, were very close to colliding. While Orlando did its part by ending Michael Jordan (#45 version) and the Chicago Bulls’ season in the conference semis, New York lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to Indiana at Madison Square Garden.

If not for the resurgence of Jordan, who helped Chicago win an NBA record 72 games, 1996 would have probably been another year that the Magic and Knicks could have clashed for the right to play in The Finals. But, the Bulls dominated the competition that season and eliminated New York in the conference semifinals.

Like in ’95, Orlando and New York were one game away from squaring off in the 1997 playoffs. After the Knicks whitewashed the Hornets in the First Round, the Magic nearly pulled off a monumental upset over their in-state rivals, the Heat. But in a decisive Game 5 and in spite of a spectacular 33-point performance from Penny Hardaway, Miami managed to advance.

Both 1999 and 2001 were similar in that the Magic and Knicks were on opposite sides of the bracket. In ’99, New York, which entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, came alive and went all the way to the NBA Finals. Orlando, on the other hand, suffered a devastating First Round defeat to the 76ers. In ’01, both teams lost in the opening round.

Also needing to be mentioned is that if not for a Pacers victory over the Heat on the last day of the regular season in 1993, the Magic and Knicks would have competed in the First Round. Indiana and Orlando both finished that year with 41-41 records, but the Pacers owned the tiebreaker.

Since ‘01, the Knicks have only qualified for the postseason once (2004). The Magic of course, have proceeded to the playoffs six times (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).

It’s very possible that Orlando and New York could finally meet in the playoffs this season. Although if the postseason started today the two squads would again miss each other in the First Round, it remains very reasonable to believe that ultimately these two franchises will line up for a long-awaited matchup.


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