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Magic 124, Sixers 115: Ghosts of One-Way Centers Past

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Noel. No Mercy. No Defense.

It's staggering that either of these guys stopped each other.
It's staggering that either of these guys stopped each other.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Certainly there are those who believe The Process is indefensible, and tonight the Sixers paid tribute to them by not playing any defense.

The Sixers also paid tribute to the French at the Battle of Agincourt as they got cut to ribbons by a bevy of sharpshooting Europeans en route to a 124-115 loss to the Magic at The Center. Former Sixer Nik Vucevic--which is his full name, according to the CSN Philly broadcast, came out hot and staked Orlando to a 12-4 lead early. Vucevic finished the first half with 19 points on 8-of-12 from the floor, and by games end he'd scored 35 points on 13-for-21 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the line.

The exquisitely eyelinered Evan Fournier scored 21 on 13 field goal attempts, while Mario Hezonja hit both his field goal attempts and Ersan Ilyasova had 10 points and eight rebounds. He also drew two charges and took part in a jump ball that caused T.J. McConnell to roll his ankle and leave the game.

Of course, the Magic didn't really play any defense either, as you might have guessed by the fact that the Sixers scored 115 points. The Sixers shot 54.4 percent from the floor, 47.6 percent from three and 73.1 percent from the stripe--a place Sixers shooters went 26 times, and after that initial Magic run, the Sixers got back into the game quickly and kept it close, leading 87-82 with five minutes left in the third quarter. In the next seven minutes after that high-water mark, however, the Magic went on a 24-8 run and led by double digits for most of the rest of the game.

The difference in the game--as it feels like it's been in every Sixers loss I can remember over the past 20 years--is that the Magic got to the line more and shot better once they were there: a staggering 35-for-41 to the Sixers' 19-for-26. This must have pleased Magic coach Scott Skiles, who now resembles, more than anything else, Kurtwood Smith as he would be rendered for a cameo in Dilbert.

It was a great night for centers who can score but are either unable or unwilling to play a lick of defense, including not only Vucevic's 35 points but Jahlil Okafor's 17 points on 13 field goal attempts, as well as a cameo from another former Sixer, Jason Smith. Boy Band Charles Oakley played only 10 minutes, but in that time he scored eight points on eight field goal attempts.

Among centers who can play defense, Nerlens Noel had 16 points on nine field goal attempts, to go with four assists. He also had 11 rebounds, tying him for the game high with Aaron Gordon, with whom he shared an exciting third-quarter run in which the two traded highlight reel dunks. The raw numbers might look a little unimpressive because of how egalitarian Brett Brown's rotation was: 11 Sixers got into the game and seven of them (eight, if you count Isaiah Canaan, who played 19:59) played 20 minutes or more.

Other highlights: Robert Covington hit a couple Curry-range three-pointers, Ish Smith got at least within striking distance of shooting 50 percent from the floor and Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin was in the building and seemed to be enjoying himself. Ball movement in half-court sets was also impressive, particularly in the early stages of the game.

Overall, it was fun to watch in parts, because it was close and high-scoring, but with the nagging sensation of the Sixers having just wasted one of their good shooting nights, of which they don't have that many.