Game Recap: Magic 130, Sixers 116

by Brian Seltzer Reporter


ORLANDO - The 76ers’ (8-51) halftime deficit was substantial, and the team made every effort to overcome it.  In the end, the mission could not be accomplished.  The Orlando Magic (26-32), sharp from the start, emphatically set the tone in Sunday’s tilt at Amway Center, on the way to earning a 130-116 victory.  With the loss, the Sixers dropped their four-game season series with the Magic, three games to one.

Mario Hezonja’s dunk in the first seven seconds of regulation was emblematic of the explosive scoring to come for the Magic.  They began the contest with an 11-0 spurt, and increased their lead to 14 points by the end of the first quarter.  Through two quarters of play, the Sixers faced a 77-51 hole.

Down 29 points midway through the third period, the Sixers received a needed spark from an unlikely source.  The three-guard trio of Ish Smith, T.J. McConnell, and Isaiah Canaan proved to be an effective compliment to the frontcourt duo of Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes.  The group rejuvenated the Sixers spirit, and ignited a 21-7 surge that brought the Sixers to within 15 points entering the fourth quarter.

The Sixers would get as close as eight points, 123-115, with just under two minutes remaining in the final frame.  Orlando countered by punctuating the evening with a 7-1 run that ensured its second triumph over the Sixers in the span of six days.

Jahlil Okafor, who deposited the Sixers’ first nine points of the second half for, topped his team with 26 points overall (12-18 fg).  The Sixers’ bench - shorthanded without Hollis Thompson - accounted for 45 points.  Jerami Grant posted 13 points (4-7 fg), eight rebounds, three steals, and a season-high tying five blocks.  Isaiah Canaan connected on a Sixers-best three three-pointers, collecting 18 points.  Rookie power forward Richaun Holmes powered his way to 12 points (4-4 fg) and four rebounds.

Much of Orlando’s success on Sunday was attributable to the club’s starting unit.  Victor Oladipo (9-17 fg) and Nik Vucevic (13-18 fg) each manufactured 28 points, a game-high.  Aaron Gordon, the runner up in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest, established a new career-best with 22 points (7-10 fg).  He also recorded seven rebounds.  

Despite setting a season-high in points, and knocking down 53.2 percent of their field goal attempts, the Sixers were outscored 31-21 in points off turnovers.  They were also outdone by 15 points from the perimeter.  

Brett Brown Said - On the factors that enabled the Orlando Magic to control Sunday's first half:

“These guys know that they can't lose to the 76ers and have a legtimate or better chance to make the playoffs.  They've got to beat us.  And so, they're right on that cusp.  We knew we were going to get that effort...The only thing we did in the second half was do our job.”

Top Moments:

Jerami Grant registered five of the Sixers’ seven blocked shots in Sunday’s defeat.  His final one was arguably his most impressive, and served as further fuel to the Sixers’ late-game push.

In the final moments of the third quarter, the Sixers, thanks to a contingent made up mostly of reserves, were in the midst of stringing together an energizing run that allowed them to cut into Orlando’s once 29-point edge.  This sequence, as called by Tom McGinnis on the Sixers Radio Network, aided the cause.  

Notes and Quotes:

  • Before Sunday’s tip-off, Brett Brown revealed that Hollis Thompson had woken up earlier in the morning experiencing flu-like symptoms, and subsequently wouldn’t be available to face Orlando later that evening.

    Throughout his third season, the Georgetown product has been a steady, durable presence.  Aside from a corneal abrasion that kept him out of back-to-back outings in Los Angeles the first two days of January, Thompson had appeared in every other game the Sixers had played this year.

    Although Thompson’s absence cost the Sixers their most accurate three-point threat and third-leading bench scorer, it did give Brown a desired chance to tinker with his personnel.  In particular, he’s wanted to give Jerami Grant reps at the small forward spot, with several key additions expected to join the roster next season.

    “Jerami might be pushed back to some three,” Brown said during his pre-game media session.    “I think that with looking at Jerami going over to some three, we all can anticipate what next year might look like, with Dario [Saric], or Joel [Embiid], whatever.  There’s a little bit of shuffling that needs to go on there.  So I think that I’m real curious about Jerami at some three, and Hollis opens up that opportunity without him tonight.”

    Grant’s assignments at the “three” came sporadically.  He first shifted to the spot with two and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter, then rotated to the position again midway through the second period.  Following intermission, Grant was used almost exclusively at power forward.  

    Amidst fluctuating roles and all, Grant put forth a productive two-way performance

  • Having arrived in central Florida early Saturday evening, members of the Sixers’ traveling party had some time to get settled in Orlando, and then, if they were so inclined,  turn on the anticipated ABC NBA Saturday Primetime match-up featuring the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.  

    Brett Brown was one of those people that was so inclined.

    What he and the rest of the audience for the nationally televised broadcast witnessed was a showdown with plenty of star power and late-game dramatics.

    When asked Sunday morning following the Sixers’ shootaround if he thought Stephen Curry’s 46-point, 12-triple performance “was out of this planet,” Brown simply said, “Yep.”

    He then elaborated more on his personal takeaways from the clash of the two Western Conference heavyweights, which the Warriors took, 121-118.

    “With Steph, you start talking about where your pick up points are right over halfcourt,” Brown said, referring to hypothetical defensive keys for the NBA’s top scorer.  “Then, he does what he does with his handle, and can still create his shot because he has such an elusive handle and amazing balance.  Then you crowd too much, and he’s at the rim.”

    Brown’s respect for Golden State, now 53-5 and off to the best 58-game start in league history, extends beyond the reigning NBA MVP.

    “You’ve got those people that can play with him,” said Brown. “I think the thing that stood out to me as much as him just an amazing individual effort, they executed stuff at the end.  They back cut stuff, a little backdoor plays.  Draymond [Green] 14 assists, 14 rebounds, six steals, four blocks, 0-8 (field goals), two points.  Steph is amazing, and he sure has an amazing surrounding cast.”

    Brown kept his coaching hat on while watching the game.   

    “Teams that can play in May and June, you really pay attention to,” he said.  “You start watching how you never really get your first option on offense.  You have to go to option two or three.  You’re not running perfectly executed plays anymore, they take away that first look.  I’m looking at that.  I’m looking at the level of superstars, and their ability to score.  And then the whole attention is just shifted, and other people...become relevant.  The ripple effects if you have that stud, how everybody else benefits, I see.”

  • Sunday marked T.J. McConnell’s second game back from the right ankle sprain he sustained in Tuesday’s third quarter versus Orlando.  After playing 18 minutes against the Washington Wizards on Friday, he logged 20 minutes at the Magic.

    “It’s getting better,” McConnell said of his ankle before Sunday’s game.  “Working with [trainers], helping me get better every day, but it’s getting better.”

    McConnell sported a black sleeve on his right leg - nearly knee-high - in the contest, and said his ankle was more heavily taped than usual.  

    “I thought it was serious at first, and then I started walking on it, and it felt better,” said McConnell, recalling the sequence of events surrounding his injury.   “The x-rays came back fine.  It was a relief.”

    McConnell scored two points and handed out four assists on Sunday.

Next Up:

As was the case with Orlando on Sunday, the Sixers’ next opponent on their two-game trip will also be one that they hosted at The Center in the past week.  On Monday at 7:00 PM EST, the Sixers meet the Washington Wizards (28-30) at Verizon Center.  Having won five of seven games since the All-Star break, Washington has pulled itself to within two games of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, which is the cutoff position for playoff qualification.  After dropping the Sixers at The Center on Friday, 103-94, the Wizards remained on a roll Sunday, posting a dominant 113-99 home victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.  With LeBron James resting, Washington capitalized.  In a one-sided affair in which the Wizards led by as many as 30 points.  All-Star point guard John Wall registered his second straight double-double, tallying 21 points (8-11 fg) and 13 assists.  Bradley Beal came off the bench for 17 points (5-10 fg).  Washington has won all three of its match-ups with the Sixers this season.


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