The Orlando Magic’s undefeated run fell with a clunk as the team was run off the floor by the Philadelphia 76ers for their first defeat of the season.
For the Orlando Magic, there was a lid on the rim on Thursday.
Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers held the NBA’s second-best scoring defense and had the second-best defensive efficiency in the league coming into the game. That had something to do with it. But this was the opposite of what the Magic had shown throughout the first four games of the season.
The Magic had been playing at a very fast pace, ranking fifth in the league in that category. They want to set up an opportunity for a good shot before the defense can get set up or keep them in motion or on their toes to attack the paint. None of that was working though.
On Thursday, Markelle Fultz, who had been leading the team in usage rate, was neutralized by Ben Simmons, the rhythm of any offense was nonexistent and shot selection was incredibly poor.
The result was as predictable as it was frustrating and dismaying — a 116-92 win for the 76ers that sent the Magic somewhat back to the drawing board despite a 4-1 record to start the season.
Joel Embiid had his way on offense, scoring 16 first-half points. Ben Simmons even knocked down a three. And the Sixers knocked down 10 of 17 first-half three-pointers. The first half score was 75-40.
The Magic shot 29-percent in that first half and 17-percent (3-of-17) from beyond the arc. For the Magic, it was the first time they had not shot the ball well all year. Their fifth-ranked offensive rating seemed too good to be true, but the team fell off a cliff and cratered.
For the Sixers, they came into the game 27th in 3-point percentage. That was either going to continue or they were due for a big performance.
With shooters like Seth Curry and Danny Green on the roster, it was not going to last too long. The Magic were the victims of a hot night, with Tobias Harris and Seth Curry each hitting three 3-pointers apiece in the first half.
The game was over by halftime. The Magic cut the deficit to 24 on several occasions before settling on that as the final score.
Orlando showed some signs of life in the second half. Fultz played with pace, glided to the basket and got an and-1 at 7:09 in the third quarter, which the Magic won by six points.
That is about the only positive anyone will take from the game. When the Magic played with intensity and some juice, they were able to make things happen. That was just absent for most of the game.
Injuries certainly were a factor too. Terrence Ross sat out the game with a hamstring injury. Evan Fournier tried to gut it out with back spasms but left the game eight minutes in. Chuma Okeke left the game with an apparent knee injury that needed to be checked out.
It was an overall frustrating night.
Orlando played with reserves throughout the remainder of the game’s garbage time, and the team has a lot of reflecting to do about the type of game they need to play against this caliber of opponent.
The team can win by shooting on certain nights, sure, but when they do not, the Magic look lifeless. And when the shots do not fall it seems to affect the rest of their game.
If they want to be a contender, that cannot be the case.
Nikola Vucevic was the lone bright spot for the Orlando Magic as he was the only player to provide double figures during the nightmarish first half. Nikola Vucevic is a consummate professional, and he does not like losing. He is finally on a team that had been winning a few games, and tonight, he got frustrated during a blowout loss.
He picked up a technical foul during the game after a scrum for an offensive rebound. He seemed annoyed and agitated the entire night, and who could blame him? It was not a fun night.
He is the star of the team, and if they are going to recover from a night like this and push forward, he is going to be a big reason why. He finished the night with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three assists on 8-of-15 shooting and 3-of-6 from deep. It was a typical evening for the All-Star stats-wise, but he certainly wasn’t pleased.
It was a very poor night from Aaron Gordon, who tried his best to post up in the early going but lost the handle on the ball, missed shots and overall did not have the feel for the game on the night. That is not entirely his fault, but the fault of the team as a whole for not having a good rhythm offensively. He also got himself a technical out of frustration.
It was not a fun night for the Orlando Magic and their veterans. They know this team can go places, and especially after the hot start, a game like this can be deflating. The technicals are not really concerning, they are just heat-of-the-moment acts.
But Aaron Gordon needs to be able to be more efficient on the offensive end especially if the Magic are going to be down so many players. He shot 1 for 8 from the field and 0 for 4 from three to tally six points on the evening. On the positive side, he did come up with two blocks and helped hold Ben Simmons to just nine points — although he still nearly tallied a triple-double with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Before the game, Cole Anthony was going to be tasked with shooting at a higher volume and playing more minutes with Terrence Ross sitting out. He has been impressive in the first four games for his decision making, poise on the ball and his ability to attack the basket. In this game, everyone struggled, so it is not fair to single out one player for his shooting performance, but he did not shoot it particularly well.
Cole Anthony made only five of his 18 shots, most of those makes coming when the game was decided in the second half. He did run the offense for the entire fourth quarter, which gives him some game experience that he most certainly needs. I am sure he would want to be out there in something other than garbage time, but it gives him an ability to make plays, get extended minutes and gel with the second unit some more.
He finished the night with 16 points. The Sixers defense certainly gave him fits as he only shot 5 for 18 from the floor. Cole Anthony struggled especially with the length from Mattise Thybulle and just could not escape or find much freedom in the lane.
The rookie from Senegal did not score and did not record an assist in his NBA debut. But he grabbed four rebounds! And he led the Magic in plus-minus at +10.
Someone’s looking to get into the starting lineup.
All jokes aside, it is good for the Orlando Magic to take a look at what they have on their deep bench, and Karim Mane provided some energy. The Magic ran the offense through Cole Anthony and Dwayne Bacon down the stretch, so Karim Mane really did not have much to do. But he did the dirty work that a bench guy needs to do. He won’t get a spot on Grades very often, so here you go, Karim.
Whatever the Philadelphia 76ers wanted to do in this one, they did. The Orlando Magic offered very little resistance and got pulled apart by an offense that suddenly had life. The Sixers made 15 of 33 3-pointers (45.5-percent) after struggling to shoot for much of the season to this point. Orlando was just a step late on all its rotations and closeouts.
But the hub of the wheel remains Joel Embiid. He had 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting with nine rebounds in 27 minutes, putting an array of moves on Nikola Vucevic throughout the contest. The Magic defended him well and he just beat it, forcing them to come up with different schemes to get stops.
What put this game over the top was Philadelphia’s shooting. Tobias Harris got it going, getting out in transition and scoring with ease for 20 points. Seth Curry added 21 on 5-for-7 makes from three.
The Magic’s record falls to 4-1. They take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday at the Amway Center.