Orlando Magic have to get bored with the simple, that is what the good teams do

The Orlando Magic got a lesson from a fully realized and veteran Philadelphia 76ers team. The simple is what wins gams and the Sixers never got bored beating the Magic with the basics.

Joel Embiid proved to be a handful for the Orlando Magic, dominating the team inside and out.
Joel Embiid proved to be a handful for the Orlando Magic, dominating the team inside and out. / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

The focus for the Orlando Magic was squarely on Joel Embiid.

Nobody in the league has been able to stop him so far this year. Since coming back from injury, he has been on a tear, scoring at least 30 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in all but one game. All eyes were on him as he has become a true three-level scorer.

That is the deception though.

Embiid is going to carry his team as any superstar, MVP-level player will. He is going to hit tough shots and there is going to be little the defense can do about it. And that does not even get to the superstar calls he might get in the process.

The real difference is what everyone else does. The real difference is how Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris take turnovers and turn them into transition points. How they all swarm and stick together to take you out of your offensive game.

And the real difference is Philadelphia goes back to that well over and over and over and over again until you prove you can stop it.

Philadelphia may not be the class of the Eastern Conference, but they are a pretty good indicator of what Orlando will go up against in the playoffs. If everything goes right in the second half of the season, the Sixers are who the Magic would see in the playoffs.

This is the team the Magic have to be better than for four out of seven games. And there is a long way to go to be at that level.

The Sixers proved that in pounding the Magic 124-109 behind 36 points from Joel Embiid and 32 points from Tyrese Maxey. They just kept hitting the Magic over and over again.

"They kept it simple," Wendell Carter said after Friday's game. "When something worked for them, they went back to it and they exhausted it until we stopped it. And then they went to something else. With them being such a veteran team, they pay really good attention to the small details, understanding where guys like to drive, where guys like to get their shots. Just little things like that shows how good of a team they are as a unit. And at the end of the day, they have Joel. And Joel is Joel."

The Magic hung tough with the Sixers for a long stretch of the game. They took the lead at the end of the first quarter and closed the gap to four with 5:22 left in the third quarter. But the Sixers closed on a 12-3 run to take a 13-point lead to the fourth quarter.

And there was no looking back.

Embiid was a handful all game. But he scored only four points (all from the foul line) in that stretch. He made 12 of 22 shots and 11 of 11 from the foul line to pace the Sixers and soak up attention from the Magic's defense. There was sometimes no stopping it.

But it was his impact on the team's ability to drive and get to the basket. It was his impact to keep the Magic on the perimeter and the Sixers' ability to frustrate and disrupt their operations.

The Magic were constantly trying to find their rhythm while the Sixers just drilled the Magic with what they do best.

The Magic have been searching for answers and searching for their identity as they deal with injuries. And this was a puzzle the team could not solve.

"This is what we're going through," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday's game. "This is the portion of where we can continue to get better and how we can improve. And then you got to give Philly credit for how they played. They are top five defense and top five offense for a reason. They have the MVP. You give them a ton of credit. But it's part of our growth to continue to understand how we can improve.

Orlando, at this point, is still trying to figure itself out again with two key players returning from injury in Wendell Carter and Markelle Fultz. They were both strong coming off the bench again -- Carter scored a season-high 25 points to go with 11 rebounds, doing the best of any player to disrupt Embiid.

But the team did not have the firepower on either end to keep up. They were struggling to find a rhythm throughout much of the game. The Sixers put their grips into them, keeping the deficit manageable when Embiid was out in the second quarter and expanding on that lead before halftime.

But more importantly, the team did not seem to be able to go to a pet play. They could not create an advantage.

While Wendell Carter had a big game, Paolo Banchero was oddly quiet with 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and six assists. He had three of the Magic's 16 turnovers. But he was trying to get others involved and move the ball with the defense taking away his path to the basket.

It was hard for the Magic to do the simple things they do.

"We've got to keep it simple," Carter said after Friday's game. "Sometimes, we speed ourselves up so much to the point that we feel like we have to make a home run play. Sometimes it's the simple bounce pass, simple one more instead of trying to skip it across the court instead of trying to make a tough pocket pass. It's just about keeping the game simple."

The Magic finished the game with 16 turnovers, leading directly to 21 Sixers points. There were a lot of mistakes and the Sixers' overall defensive aggression deserves its kudos and credit.

But there were a lot of those forced passes and trying to squeeze the ball through tight windows. There were a lot of plays where the team tried to do something overly complex instead of focusing on a simple play to score a basket.

This is where the Magic have to improve. As Carter put it, the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers of the world do not do anything complex. They make simple plays and simple passes. They do not get bored with what works.

That is something a young team like the Magic sometimes struggles with doing. Not to mention breaking down a focused and complex defense.

This is a team that is still learning and still figuring out how to measure up to a team like the Sixers. They are still trying to knock the door on the way in.

It is still a process. The Magic will have to make some tweaks to their lineup and they will have to get healthy to get where they want to go.

Next. Magic rotation 01.19.24. Jamahl Mosley building rotations based on trust. dark

But it starts with dominating and repeating the simple. It starts with understanding that simplicity wins. That is what the great teams do. And that is what the Magic are aspiring toward.