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Sixers use strong fourth quarter to beat Magic for fifth straight win

It was another slow start against an inferior opponent, but the Sixers’ strong final period led to a road win to keep their streak alive.

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic

Doc Rivers will tell you that a win is a win. It wasn’t pretty, but surely the head coach will be happy with the end result in his return to the bench.

After another slow start against an inferior opponent, the Sixers used a strong fourth quarter to beat the lowly Magic, 116-106, at Amway Center Wednesday night. It was the Sixers’ fifth straight win and improved them to 21-16 on the season.

Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Paul Reed, and Jaden Springer are all in health and safety protocols. Shake Milton (lower back contusion) and Ben Simmons (personal reasons) were also out.

Orlando’s injury report isn’t much better these days. They were missing seven players, including former Sixers Markelle Fultz (knee) and Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle).

The Sixers are back at the Wells Fargo Center Friday for a date with the Spurs.

Here are a few observations from the night.

First half

  • Tobias Harris missed his first three shots. It looked like the Sixers were trying to get him going early, but his struggles continued.
  • Another slow start for the Sixers against an inferior opponent. Their transition defense was especially brutal. Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Franz Wagner, who scored 27 against the Sixers in late November, is really impressive. The Magic got a good one.
  • Considering the Sixers have the most dominant post scorer in the league, you’d think they’d be better at entry passes. Early in the first, Furkan Korkmaz may have delivered the best entry pass of the season that led to an easy Joel Embiid bucket. It stood out because it’s rare for one of Embiid’s teammates to get him such an easy basket.
  • Speaking of Embiid, he was his usual dominant self with 10 first-quarter points. Believe he received faint MVP chants down in Orlando. Seth Curry poured in 11 points in a strong opening period.
  • Rebounding continues to be an issue. The Magic pulled down five offensive boards in the first quarter.
  • Harris knocked down an open three above the break off some excellent ball movement late in the first quarter. He then had a nice drive and pretty finger roll finish while playing with an all-bench unit. Think it’s a solid move by Doc Rivers to stagger Embiid and Harris, allowing Tobias to eat with the reserves.
  • Isaiah Joe continues to be unafraid to shoot it from anywhere or take charges.
  • Myles Powell looked like he tapped Cole Anthony below the belt while Anthony was taking a three in transition. They called it a flagrant foul on Powell. Weird play.
  • Embiid makes one coast-to-coast play a game that makes you say, “wow.”
  • Harris looks like he’s playing freer — granted it was against a lowly opponent. There’s no hesitation at all to his game and he’s attacking the rim. He also made a couple nice duck ins where Embiid found him for layups.
  • Embiid (18), Harris (14) and Curry (13) carried the scoring load. Andre Drummond provided a nice boost off the bench with nine points, three rebounds and three assists. The biggest issues for the Sixers in the first half were rebounds and turnovers. They were outrebounded 31-22 and committed nine turnovers. That’s why the Sixers held a narrow 62-59 advantage.

Second half

  • Brutal start to the third quarter. Orlando started the second half on a 10-0 run. Anthony looked like he may have suffered a bad ankle injury after landing on a teammate on a three-point attempt. Anthony is another impressive young player for the Magic and was playing well in this one (17 points, six assists).
  • The Sixers’ defense has been awful. So much dribble penetration and way too many points in the paint.
  • Embiid hasn’t liked to roll in his career very often, but he had two very good ones in pick-and-rolls with Curry. One led to a foul on a lob attempt and the other led to a quick Eurostep and dunk.
  • Drummond and Embiid minutes? Well, should certainly help with the rebounding! Let’s get weird.
  • Korkmaz getting going here again at a perfect time with a pair of threes.
  • Anthony checked back in, a welcomed sight. Though it looks like Wagner also suffered an ankle injury and has yet to return.
  • Sixers just not matching the Magic’s energy level at all. It was a really flat third quarter that Orlando won, 30-26. A clutch Harris three with four seconds left cut the deficit to 89-88 heading into the fourth. If the Sixers play defense for a quarter, they should win.
  • Wagner did return to the game.
  • The Sixers are really just trying to tread water whenever Embiid is out of the game with so many guys not in the lineup, but a Drummond-led lineup did well to build a lead midway through the fourth. Another Korkmaz three, Curry floater and Harris three capped off a 10-0 Sixers run that built a 105-94 lead. Harris up to 22 points. Curry has 15 points and 11 assists. He’s sneakily put up strong assist numbers recently while playing more of a point guard role.
  • Wagner and Anthony’s dribble penetration was a problem for the Sixers all night. They kept Orlando in the game until the end. The Sixers missed Thybulle tonight, though they did hold the Magic to just 17 points in the fourth.
  • Curry with two huge buckets — a jumper off an Embiid screen and an and-one on an overaggressive closeout — after the Magic cut the deficit to three. Sixers lead up to 114-106 with a little over a minute left.
  • Another 30-point night for Embiid, his fourth straight and sixth in his last eight. He finished with 31 points, five rebounds and four assists. Harris had 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists. It was a solid bounce-back game. Curry recorded 20, 12 assists and four rebounds. Korkmaz used a strong second half to finish with 20. Another strong Drummond night (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block). A win is a win, right, Doc?