The Philadelphia 76ers came into tonight’s rubber match with the Orlando Magic after a disappointing loss Monday night, where the Magic rallied from down 21 points to win the game. The Sixers looked to avenge their loss Wednesday night against a young Magic squad feeling good off of a win.
Early on in this one, the Sixers could not keep the Magic off the free-throw line and off the glass, which allowed Orlando to stay close early. Bad rebounding coupled with bad defense had the visiting team feeling like they could compete.
The Sixers kept the Magic at arm’s length, but it felt like they could have pulled away a bunch of times in the second half. The 76ers finally pulled away with a push late in the fourth to defeat the Magic 105-94 behind 28 points and 11 rebounds from Joel Embiid and 26 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds from James Harden. Former 76er Markelle Fultz paced the Magic with 18 points and three assists.
Sixers’ Stars Leading the Way
Joel Embiid and James Harden, who SHOULD both be named All-Star reserves, led the way offensively for the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Embiid had 20 points at halftime, while the second half was the James Harden show. Embiid operated out of the post early on, which started to draw double teams from the Magic.
James Harden controlled the second half for the Sixers ending up just shy of a triple-double. Harden was really good and decisive on catch-and-shoot opportunities tonight, which is a great development for this team. He did a lot of damage in isolation, and when the shot is falling, it opens up the driving lanes for him. Harden was 6 for 10 from three-point range tonight and is shooting his best percentage from three since 2012.
The Sixers continued their recent trend of one or two quarters a game when they just fall off a cliff defensively. After starting slow on defense in the first quarter, they picked it up to build a 14-point first-quarter lead. Once the second quarter started, the defense was terrible. Not only did they play bad defense, but the sloppy play also led to transition buckets or free throws for the Magic.
Old habits reared their ugly head again. The Sixers gave up 12 offensive rebounds and had 19 turnovers that led to 24 points. It is the dog days in the middle of the season, but they need to give a better effort. Side note: It seems like a theme every year, but the 76ers need to upgrade the backup center spot. Montrezl Harrell was a -3 in 10 minutes tonight, and defensively is a liability.
Orlando’s Young Guns
Although the Orlando Magic are 13th in the Eastern Conference, they have played much better lately. They have beaten the Warriors, Celtics, and Pelicans as of late. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are the real deal, even though they didn’t shoot well in tonight’s matchup. Former Sixer Markelle Fultz has really transformed into a solid NBA guard after shooting his career off slow in Philadelphia. Fultz can get to his spot on the court, rebound and dish it. He may not be the superstar he was projected to be, but he is turning into a solid NBA guard.