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Sixers-Magic recap: Sixers collapse late in Orlando, assault the rim with more bricks

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Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Even with Markelle Fultz playing for the other team, the Sixers just can’t seem to buy a jump shot from downtown. The perimeter struggles continued this evening down in Disneyland. It was the second game of a back-to-back and Joel Embiid was out of the lineup with injury maintenance, left knee soreness:

Without their superstar big the team needed better perimeter play that didn’t come. The team shot a combined 8-30 from deep, just 26.7 percent. The struggle has been led by Tobias Harris who is in a vicious funk. Philadelphia’s $180M man made the transition from stretch four a season ago (playing alongside Jimmy Butler at the three) to the small forward position this season. For whatever reason, his touch on 3s has been temporarily sapped as of late.

He was 0-3 tonight and has now made just 4 out of his last 35 attempts from beyond the arc. Overall he was just 4-13 from the field and finished with just 8 points. He was able to chip in 6 dimes and 10 boards, a couple steals and a block. But his struggles have been real.

Ben Simmons was 9-12 from the field and kicked in 18 points, 5 dimes and 8 boards. But he’s the player they need to free up open shooters since he doesn’t knock them down himself.

Josh Richardson had a team high 19 points and didn’t play as badly as he has recently. Richardson had 19 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds with some tough defense. He shot the ball well as he was 7-14 from the field and 2-4 from deep. He was 5-18 from deep on the team’s recent road trip when they lost three straight and only 1-8 from deep against the Cavs last night in a strangely close contest so it was nice to see him find the stroke for an evening.

But of course the Sixers really missed Joel who was awesome last night. The injury that limited the Sixers superstar following the All-Star Break a season ago is the one referenced in Serena Winters’ tweet above, left knee soreness. It’s all part of the plan to rest him on nights like this. But seeing the phrase left knee soreness is at least interesting.

Sixers fans must hope what the team means by “left knee soreness” really translates into “we don’t want his knee to get sore by playing him too much like it did last year and we don’t want the NBA on our backs for claiming he’s perfectly healthy when he sits.” That would be much better than the other possibility: “his knee is actually a bit sore because his issue from last year never fully resolved.” Let’s hope for the former here and that that is what Winters meant by “all part of his plan.”

The game was actually pretty close most of the way. It was a one point game with 9 minutes to go. Then the brick laying and lack of energy caught up with Philadelphia and they allowed the Magic to close on a 26 to 12 run led by their center Nikola Vucevic who had a 25 and 12 field day sans Embiid.

The Sixers entered the season with concerns regarding their perimeter shooting. After the 11 game sample we see those concerns appear quite fair to put it mildly. Tonight they shot just 44 percent from the field, 69 percent from the line, and turned it over 15 times. In short, this team can’t shoot.

Brett Brown has his work cut out for him.

He can’t put the ball in the hoop for his players who are getting what feels like an endless amount of clean looks. They’re just not falling.

Maybe things will regress to the mean and players like Harris will snap out of his funk. And the starters haven’t had the chance to play much together with injuries, suspensions, and diligent load management. But it’s certainly an issue to monitor. You never want to overreact to the second game of a back-to-back when your best player sits. But we have more data than just this evening to think about here.

At least Markelle Fultz was 0-2. If he hit a couple of threes it would have been too much to stomach. The fellas are off until Friday when they’re at the 4-7 Thunder and Embiid will be back.