3 takeaways from the Sixers road win in Orlando

Embiid Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots in front of Orlando Magic center Goga Bitadze (35) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Friday, Jan. 19, the Philadelphia 76ers dodged the snow and cold back home to play in the mild weather of Orlando, Florida. Whether they played at home or on the road, the Sixers are heating up as of late with their stellar play, especially Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Breaking records

Wilt Chamberlain and Hal Greer were pretty good players for the Sixers back in the day. So much so that they have their jerseys hanging from the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center. Could Maxey and Embiid earn the same honor? Perhaps, but what’s the connection?

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, left, and Joel Embiid react after a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Versus the Magic, the dynamic duo put up historic numbers. Those numbers helped them surpass Greer and Chamberlain in a special category.

According to the Associated Press, Philly’s finest tandem broke a franchise record that stood for 58 years. For the eighth time this season, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey each scored over 30 points in the same game. In the 1965-1966 season, Greer and Chamberlain reached those numbers seven times.

How the current Sixers duo did it was far more impressive. They scored in a number of dynamic ways. Embiid was unstoppable on the block but also from midrange. His pass to himself off the backboard for a slam sent the highlight into viral status, similar to what Anthony Edwards did the night before. 

Maxey, who would be Greer in this comparison, was impressive from the field, shooting 10-20. His four 3-pointers led the team, while his penetration and finishing at the rim were too much for Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz to handle.

Even Nick Nurse was aware of the record-breaking performances. He extolled his two best players, “That’s a cool stat, for sure. They should be a pretty good combo for a while.”

An unsung hero for the Sixers

Patrick Beverley has always been the kind of player that annoys the opposing team’s fanbase. His smack talk is designed to get under people’s skin, especially opposing players. Against the Magic, it was more of the same. This aspect of his game is just a small window into the true value of what he brings to the Sixers.

Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony, center, drives to the basket as Philadelphia 76ers forward Marcus Morris Sr. (5) and guard Patrick Beverley, right, defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

His stat line against Orlando is nothing to write home about, scoring just five points, grabbing six boards, and dishing out four dimes. Yet, his tenacious defense and vocal leadership were evident versus the Magic. At one point, Joe Ingles hit a shot in the first half, and before he talked to his own teammates, he playfully gave a verbal jab to Beverley. 

Beverley was in Ingles’ head like he’s done all year against opposing players. His blocks, steal, and deflections contributed to the victory, but it’s his overall attitude toward winning that has endeared him to the Sixers’ fanbase.

Against the Magic, he was scrappy and unselfish. Beverley gives the team and city exactly the kind of effort that helps produce wins. It is the kind of dedication to team play that Philly respects and the team needs.

A young team with much to learn

The Magic got off to a hot start this season with the exceptional play of their young core. Paolo Banchero has shown why he was the number one overall pick and Rookie of the Year last season. Against the Sixers, though, his play was not nearly enough to secure a win.

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots as Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (40) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The tone was set in the first half when Philly began taking advantage of Orlando’s sloppy play.  On a number of plays, the Magic coughed up the ball, which led to the Sixers’ fast breaks. Their 16 turnovers helped Philadelphia build a lead as high as 22 points.

The athleticism of the Magic guards is notable, but some of their decisions with the basketball are what could bring them down to earth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Although their second-best player, Franz Wagner, missed the game due to injury, it probably would not have mattered. The way Maxey and Embiid have been playing, along with solid bench contribution, the Sixers would likely have achieved the same result. 

Despite this. the future is bright in Orlando.