For the second time in as many nights, the 76ers blew out their competition, this time defeating the Orlando Magic 118-98 from the Amway Arena Thursday night.
Despite playing at home 24 hours prior, and a fourth nor’easter of the season barreling down on Philadelphia, likely making travel to Orlando difficult after Wednesday night’s game, the 76ers showed no signs of fatigue in the 20-point drubbing over the Magic. For the second straight night, the 76ers jumped out a 4-0 lead off the opening tip and never relinquished control, leading wire-to-wire Thursday night.
In uncommon fashion, the 76ers’ bench shined tonight, this time from the onset, in helping Philadelphia pick up the victory. The reserves scored 58 of the team’s 118 points, and were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 18 in the game, including seven in the first quarter. Marco Bellinelli added six points of his own, as the 76ers’ bench would nearly keep pace with the Magic’s starters in the first quarter, getting outscored 23-18.
Former 76er, Nikola Vucevic, had an impressive first quarter of his own, leading the Magic through the first 12 minutes of play with seven points. He would, however, become a non-factor for the remainder of the game, as Vucevic failed to score in the final three quarters.
After one, the 76ers led by nine, 32-23.
Orlando struggled from the field as the game progressed, as the Magic shot well in the first, but came crashing back to Earth later in the contest. Their first real struggles would come midway through the second quarter, as they missed four consecutive shots, allowing the 76ers to go on a 9-2 run to open up a 14 point lead, 47-33. The Magic wouldn’t be held down long, however, as they quickly used an 8-2 run of their own moments later to trim the 76ers’ lead to 11, 58-47.
But as we’ve seen in recent games, the 76ers did a tremendous job of stopping the run and forcing an extended one of their own as the half came to a close. A 12-0 run, powered by five Joel Embiid points, including a knock down three with 16 seconds remaining in the first half extended the 76ers’ lead to the largest of the night to that point, 70-47. Embiid finished the half with 15 points on an extremely effective shooting night, gathering those points on a 6-8 first half.
A Magic bucket to end the half would also end their scoring drought, but the 76ers managed to pull away, taking a 70-49 lead into halftime. The team moved the ball extremely well in the first half, picking up 20 assists on 70 points. They also protected the basketball, turning it over just five times in the first 24 minutes.
Whether it comes from Head Coach Brett Brown or it’s self-imposed, the 76ers mindset has seemed to change out of the halftime break over the last few weeks. The team seemingly flips a switch which allows them to become defensive stalwarts in the third quarter. That trend continued Thursday night, as the 76ers held Orlando to just 15 third quarter points.
After Aaron Gordan picked up an early bucket less than two minutes into the third, the 76ers stifled the Magic offense for much of the rest of the quarter, not allowing another Magic field goal for over six minutes of play.
Robert Covington, who struggled from the field in the first half, shooting 2-8, knocked down two early threes for the 76ers as part of an 15-5 run through the first six minutes of the third quarter, extending the Philadelphia lead to the largest of the night, at 31 points. While the 76ers were able to draw the lead out further, the damage was not nearly as severe as it could have been. During that stretch in which the Magic scored no field goal for six minutes, the 76ers found themselves without a bucket for three of those minutes. This prevented the lead from being even larger than it could have become.
A main contributor to the lack of scoring in the second quarter was turnovers. The trend that the 76ers set in the first half was bucked in the second half, as the team turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter alone. They would turn the ball over an additional five times in the fourth quarter, accounting for 12 in the second half.
In the final four minutes of the third quarter, the Magic closed the gap slightly, going on an 11-7 run in the final 3:49 of the frame. This trimmed the 76ers lead to 30, 95-65, marking the second straight night Philadelphia led by 30 going into the fourth quarter.
With another blowout on tap, Brett Brown was able to empty his bench and play some of his reserves in the fourth quarter. One player receiving action in the fourth was Furkan Korkmaz, who hadn’t played NBA basketball since mid-December when he suffered a lisfranc injury. The play of the reserves was sloppy at times, as the 76ers didn’t get on the score board in the fourth quarter for 3:45 before Ersan Ilyasova found his way to five consecutive 76ers’ points. Orlando would take advantage of the 76ers’ starters resting in the final frame to go on runs of 7-0 and 17-6 throughout the quarter. Those explosions would be in vain, however, as the insurmountable deficit they found themselves in going into the final quarter was too much to overcome. Orlando won the final quarter by ten points, 33-23, but still fell by 20, 118-98.
Another blowout, another evenly distributed 76ers’ stat sheet, as six different 76ers recorded double digit scoring, with no one player scoring more than 18.Covington, Saric, Redick, Ilyasova and Bellinelli all scored at least ten.Joel Embiid finished the night with 17 points and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes, and Ben Simmons recorded another double-double, as he picked up 10 assists and 11 rebounds.
The win was the 76ers’ fifth in a row and 18th on the road, pulling within a game of .500 away from the Wells Fargo Center. The team improves to 41-30 with the victory, moving a half game closer to the idle, three seed, Cleveland Cavaliers. The 76ers now sit just one game back of Cleveland in the Eastern Conference standings.
The 76ers will be back in action Saturday night, when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. Tip off is set for 6 p.m., and you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli