The Philadelphia 76ers emerged victorious despite a strong effort Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic.
What was supposed to be an easy Saturday night win for the Philadelphia 76ers almost got away from them. The Orlando Magic, traveling from Charlotte to Philly on the second night of a back-to-back, had a chance to win at the buzzer. The Sixers escaped with a 116-115 victory.
The first quarter started off similarly to the Bulls game on Thursday, with the Magic drilling tough shots and the Sixers’ offense trying to keep up. Orlando led by as much as 16 in the first quarter, but J.J. Redick‘s sweet-shooting contributions helped trim the lead to two after one.
In the second quarter, things went more solidly in Philadelphia’s direction. Despite Ben Simmons getting yanked early due to back tightness, Embiid was able to carry the load and give the Sixers an 11-point halftime lead.
After hitting just one three-pointer in the Sixers’ first two games, Embiid drilled three in the first half. His 21 points led the way through two quarters, with the big man scoring both inside and out. Redick finished the first half with 15 points on 5/6 three-point shooting.
Embiid helped keep the Sixers afloat with Simmons on the sideline. He’s the first Sixer to score 30+ points in two consecutive games since Allen Iverson in 2006, which once again highlights his special talent. Zero turnovers and multiple threes is a promising sign, as was his efficiency overall.
Redick, Johnson, Shamet and McConnell were the only players with a positive plus-minus in a game the Sixers won by one point. The shorthanded second unit came up huge. Redick was the reason why, gunning around screens and knocking down several big shots, including the go-ahead bucket to win the game.
McConnell stepped up in Simmons’ absence, playing three more minutes than Markelle Fultz and providing a valuable spark on both ends. With all the talk about Fultz and his fit in the rotation, it’s easy to forget how effective McConnell can be as the lone point guard. His presence was important in this game.
Saric wasn’t super efficient, but he hit some threes (which is good to see) and made timely free throws late in the fourth quarter. His defense remains a weak point in the Sixers’ rotation, but his hustle, floor spacing and subtle playmaking ability are all positives.
Fultz struggled with his shot early in the game, missing some easy looks and, again, avoiding the three-point line. He’s still a work in progress, but it’s important to maintain faith in the 20-year-old guard. He looked good as the primary ball handler once Simmons left, dishing seven dimes and only turning it over once. His 11 attempts, again, show gradually improving confidence. There were positives.
In the third quarter, however, Orlando gained some ground. Their starting five was highly effective tonight, with Nikola Vucevic (27 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) and Evan Fournier (31 points) leading the charge.
The Sixers would end the third with a meager three-point lead, partially due to some questionable rotations. Simmons’ absence left the Sixers shorthanded, and a T.J. McConnell–Landry Shamet–Furkan Korkmaz–Dario Saric–Amir Johnson lineup won’t lead to success.
The fourth quarter was back-and-forth. With just over a minute left, following a scramble around the basket, the ball bounced out to mid-court with the shot clock ticking away. As time expired, Terrence Ross threw up a halfcourt heave.
That, of course, was all cotton. Orlando took a two-point lead.
From that point forward, it was pure chaos. Saric tied the game with two free throws at the 1:11 mark, before Evan Fournier gave Orlando the lead shortly after on a nice floater. Then Joel Embiid would the head to the line, where he received MVP chants, only to hit 1/2. The Sixers were down one.
With 17 seconds left in the game, however, J.J. Redick curled around and received a dribble hand-off from Embiid. On the move, in typical Redick fashion, for the former Magic standout hit his eighth three to give the Sixers a two-point lead.
On the next possession, Aaron Gordon was fouled by Redick with 10.3 seconds left. He missed the second free throw, leading to a hotly contested rebound. That set up a jump ball between Nikola Vucevic and Robert Covington, which the former won.
It was Magic basketball, out of a timeout, with 4.6 seconds left from near mid-court. Jonathan Isaac inbounded the ball to Terrence Ross, who curled around a screen and missed the contested three-point shot. Embiid rebound, Sixers win. 116-115 was your final score.
Given the circumstances, this should not have been a close game for the Sixers. They were sloppy on defense and didn’t come out of the gates with enough energy (probably because they were playing an Orlando team coming off a blowout loss to Charlotte the night before).
It’s also worth noting that shoot-around was abbreviated due to the prolonged transition from hockey ice to basketball court before the game.
The Sixers’ next game will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 23 against the Detroit Pistons on the road.