Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 98, Philadelphia 76ers 97

Nikola Vucevic helped the Orlando Magic contain and frustrate Joel Embiid to get a big win over the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic helped the Orlando Magic contain and frustrate Joel Embiid to get a big win over the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic made fans nervous with a near-late-game collapse. But the team put together a stellar defensive effort to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers.

97. 93. 98. 38. Final

Everyone seemed to be holding their breath as the Orlando Magic tried desperately to cling to their lead. It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong as the Magic missed free throws and the Philadelphia 76ers hit every three they put up (finally).

One last piece to the puzzle needed to fall into place to give the 76ers a last chance to win.

Aaron Gordon tried to throw a fade toward the basket for Nikola Vucevic to collect and go to the foul line. But Ben Simmons successfully tipped the short pass and saved it to Joel Embiid.

Luckily, Aaron Gordon turned immediately into defense mode. He stayed in front of Embiid, riding with him all the way up the court, forcing Embiid into a rushed three a few feet behind the line. Everything else had gone in for the last 1:30 of game time.

Not this time. The shot hit the backboard hard and the Magic survived with a 98-97 win over the 76ers at Amway Center on Friday. This, after holding an 11-point lead with 1:49 to go after Aaron Gordon rose up for an alley-oop off an Evan Fournier feed.

To that point, the Magic had played about as well as they have played at any point this season. Their defense was intense and physical, doing a good job keeping Embiid on the perimeter and challenging all of his shots. The Magic swarmed and doubled him anytime he brought the ball near the corner and continually mixed up coverages on him.

They were able to turn misses into transition chances and they dictated the pace of the game.

It helped the 76ers missed a ton of 3-pointers — they hit five of their 10 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the game — but the Magic were able to get set in the half-court and keep the 76ers at bay.

Orlando did not shoot well at 42.0 percent, but it rarely mattered. The Magic spent the second half playing at their slow crawl but still moving quickly through their offense. And the 76ers never could find their rhythm. Not until desperation kicked in and the Magic left the door too open.

Until the end of the game, the Magic played exactly how they wanted. And even with the shaky finish, they got the big win they have needed and wanted.

AARON GORDON. B-. Aaron Gordon was really two sides of every coin for the Orlando Magic in this one. He does a good job defending Ben Simmons and largely made it difficult for Simmons to get anything going in the half-court. Gordon was always there to meet him and keep him at bay. Simmons had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.<p>So he still filled the stat sheet. And it was his defense that helped fill it. Gordon committed plenty of fouls and was in foul trouble for a chunk of this game. Two sides of the same coin.</p><p>That was the best way to describe his offense too. Gordon had 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting. He was really active on the glass with 11 rebounds. But he also had four turnovers. And Gordon settled for a lot of mid-range shots as the Magic had their struggles getting penetration on the 76ers’ defense.</p>. F. Orlando Magic

B. The Orlando Magic turned to their closer in <a href=. G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER

B+. <a href=. C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ. B+. The Orlando Magic needed someone to make sure they got off to a good start and set the tone. <a href=. PG

Everyone considers the Philadelphia 76ers as good enough to compete for a championship. The problem is they do not always play at that level. Their intensity wavers and their efficiency as shooters goes up and down. They really should not have been in a game this tight with the Magic, but they played right into Orlando’s hands.<p>Philadelphia struggled to stay in rhythm throughout the game. Orlando deserves credit for a great scheme to defend Joel Embiid. They doubled him in the high post and brought the traps at different times to keep him off balance. Orlando’s length was clearly a problem.</p><p>If it were not for that late run of desperation, this would have been a truly disappointing performance. Honestly, the urgency and pressure the 76ers put on the Magic throughout those final minutes showed exactly how good this team can be. Where was that attention earlier?</p>. 23-11. 5th East. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS. C-

Next. Fultz excelling in hypothetical rookie year. dark

The Magic are 14-17 and in eighth in the Eastern Conference. They hit the road to take on the Bucks on Saturday.