MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 25: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter of the game at Target Center on February 25, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 76ers defeated the Timberwolves 133-102.

By Dylan MacKinnon

The Sixers squeaked by with a win tonight. It was not pretty. At times it was hard to watch. But a victory is a victory, and they left Orlando with a 116-114 win.

Slow starts have become a reoccurring issue for this team. Since the Harden trade, they rank dead last in defensive rating, and second to last in Net rating in the first quarter. The Sixers have trailed at the end of the first half in 4 of James Harden’s 7 games with the Sixers. They have also given up at least 60pts in 4 Harden’s 7 starts.

It was another slow start by the Sixers. They trailed by 5 at the end of the first quarter, and by 12 at the end of the half. Sixers shot just 34% as a team, and 28.5% from 3. In fact, if you factor Tobias Harris out of that, it gets worse. Sixers players not named Harris shot 10 for 38 from the field. That is only 26.3%. They had four shots blocked in the first half. Meanwhile, The Magic shot 53,7% from the field. That includes 8-20 from 3pt range.

They managed to turn things around in the 3rd quarter. The 12pt Magic lead was cut to 6. Embiid led the way with 13 in the quarter. They managed to tie it at one point but ended up falling back to down 6. But it was the first quarter they won in the game, and they held the Magic to only 21 pts.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers and Magic traded the lead back in forth. The two teams went the last 3 minutes in regulation without scoring. They had chances to win, but a 0-2 trip at the line, a missed Harris layup and missed Maxey 3pter sent them to OT.

Overtime stayed close. At one point Cole Anthony hit three straight 3pters to make it a 4pt Magic lead. But the Sixers clawed back off a Harden layup and a Harris 3pter. Doc Rivers used his challenge when a clean Thybulle block was called a foul. Sixer won the challenge, which lead to a jump ball. The jump ball led to a 1-2 Maxey trip to the FT line. It gave the Sixers a 2pt lead. A lead they held onto to win the game.

Embiid finished with 35  pts, Harris with 26, Harden also with 26, and Niang had 16 off the bench. Niang’s 4-8 shooting from 3 kept them in this one. An important thing to note is late in the game Niang was getting Thybulle’s usual minutes. Thybulle again struggled in this game. he did have a important block that helped them win, but another 0 pt game cost him minutes late in this game.

After the Sixers squeaked by with a win tonight, they are 41-25. It moves them back into the 2 seed, tied with the Bucks. They get no time off as they return home tomorrow night to face the Nuggets in a battle of MVP candidates.