A true superstar changes everything and Joel Embiid buried the Orlando Magic

Joel Embiid scored 50 points and made it look easy as the Orlando Magic were left staggered by individual brilliance. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid scored 50 points and made it look easy as the Orlando Magic were left staggered by individual brilliance. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

110. 38. 123. 93. Final

The Orlando Magic were hanging on by a thread in the first quarter.

They knew Joel Embiid would have the ball in his hands a lot. They knew he was going to be scoring a lot. They just had to do everything they could to make it hard for him and hope nobody else came alive, as they did in their meeting a few weeks ago in Orlando.

The Magic got a small reprieve when Embiid, who had 20 points in the first quarter, got in foul trouble and gave the Magic a small hole o press their advantage.

Mo Bamba was among the players who took it. Bamba scored 20 of his career-high 32 points in the second quarter to help the Magic take a 10-point lead into the locker room.

The Sixers were going to make their run. And Embiid was going to carry his team back into the game. Nobody probably saw this coming.

Embiid stayed hot as he did in the first quarter. But this time the rest of his team came with him. The power of a superstar player was on full display and the Magic had no answers. No answers defensively and no response offensively.

Some nights in the NBA, it is simply about that. The star player wins the game.

Joel Embiid added to his growing MVP-level resume as the Philadelphia 76ers stormed past a staggered Orlando Magic team still in need of their own guiding light.

And every great team needs a star to build around. Without that, teams are always hanging on by a thread on most nights.

Joel Embiid is that star.

He is enough on most nights to give his team a chance. The Sixers have been able to build specifically around him and are working and doing everything can to highlight and emphasize his skills.

"“That was a heck of a performance by him and he has been playing at an MVP level,” acting coach Jesse Mermuys said. “You have to tip your hat. In this league, there are great players with great performances. We’ll watch the tape and learn from it and see where we could have done a better job making it more difficult for him.”"

Embiid came into the second half and ripped the Magic’s hearts out. It was easy to see how dispirited they were. A 10-point halftime lead became a 20-point deficit and eventually a comfortable 123-110 Philadelphia win at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

The Sixers scored 47 points in the third quarter to flip the game completely around. Joel Embiid scored 23 in the third alone, capping it off with a step-back three over a helpless Robin Lopez.

Any positive momentum the Magic thought they might have built was destroyed with every tough shot Embiid made and every time he outsmarted the Magic before they could bring the trap to try to get it out of his hands.

The Magic were staggered and really unable to recover.

Outside of a few slips when Cole Anthony got free for jams, including one off a made basket, the Sixers stifled the Magic’s offense completely. Orlando started over dribbling and were unable to get anyone free. The Sixers started switching to take away Bamba’s 3-point shooting.

The Magic had no answers. And no one who could step up.

"“It’s tough,” Bamba said after Wednesday’s game. “His just general presence out there. Offensively, he’s bringing the ball up the floor, he’s shooting threes, he’s obviously posting up. It’s a tough cover. But I think if we did a little bit better sticking to the gameplan we would have had more success.”"

Mermuys said the Sixers making so many shots disrupted the team’s rhythm and pace. The Magic had to slow down as they took the ball out of the rim. They needed to get a stop to get up the court quicker and try to get downhill before Embiid and the Sixers’ defense could get set.

Who knows whether one stop would have truly changed anything for the Magic. Embiid was just hitting so much.

It really came down to that though.

When the Sixers needed to climb back into the game, they could turn to Embiid and get a shot, even if it was a tough one they could rely on to go down. Embiid will not shoot this well — 17 for 23 overall and 15 for 17 from the foul line — but he was in rhythm and just hit shot after shot.

The Magic could not find a similar answer. They did not have a player who was able to crack the Sixers’ defense once they made their adjustment.

Bamba said in the third quarter, their offense started to get stagnant and they struggled to move the ball as freely as they did in the first half. That made the game an uphill climb as everyone started to struggle.

Bamba was a non-factor in the second half after his first-half burst. Cole Anthony scored 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting, he made and took half of his shots in the third quarter as he tried to keep the team in the game.

It was not even about turnovers as it usually was for the Magic, they just could not get Embiid to slow down and they could not keep up.

Everyone was just left in awe of one of the league’s very best players.

"“As we continue to learn, we learn that this game is a game of runs,” Chuma Okeke said after Wednesday’s loss. “Good teams are going to have runs like that. We came back to the sideline to stay composed. they just hit some tough shots tonight.”"

Okeke said the run from the 76ers did not affect them. But by the end of the third quarter, it was easy to see the disappointment and frustration.

As the Magic missed shots close to the rim or struggled to break free, they were late getting back in transition. that only made things worse as they were left to foul Embiid or someone else.

Bamba fouled out of his career game as he too seemed to lose the shot-blocking energy that powered the Magic to that 10-point lead. Embiid ended up tearing through him and taking him out of the game with fouls before just speeding past Lopez whenever they were matched up.

Everything about this game turned back to Embiid. He is the star around which the Sixers orbit.

The Magic are still looking for that guide to help them grow.

The reality though is that the Magic had no answer for Embiid because they have no player who can individually bring the team back to attention or save them from poor efforts.

Every rebuild needs a star. And every team needs someone who they can build around.

The Magic are still in the beginnings of their rebuild where they are trying to find that player. They are still so young, it is impossible to expect consistency. But the team has struggled to find that prime creator and scorer.

They still need someone who can create and be the center of attention.

There are plenty of candidates — from Cole Anthony to Markelle Fultz to Jonathan Isaac to rookies Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs. And they still have plenty of opportunity to grow and develop into the role.

But the big picture of this season is to start the rebuild. And more than halfway through, it is hard to say anyone has taken hold of that role. It is hard for the Magic to predict their future without it.

They still need a massive influx of talent, even at the top of the roster. It means everything.

For the Sixers, it is what bailed them out of a lethargic performance that nearly had the league-worst Magic walking out of their building with a win — and had fans booing them at halftime.

Next. Moritz Wagner has been worth the signing. dark

Embiid is the difference. Just like any star is to a rebuilding team.