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Philadelphia 76ers 97, Orlando Magic 89

The dramatically shorthanded Orlando Magic stuck with the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half on Saturday night, but their defense tanked in the second, allowing the 76ers to depart Amway Center with a 97-89 victory. Louis Williams, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala led the way for the visitors, scoring 65 points with exceptional efficiency. Dwight Howard poured in 26 points and 20 rebounds for his first 20/20 performance in over a year, but the Magic's offense struggled to create open looks. Brandon Bass took on more offensive responsibility than usual, but shot just 8-of-19 from the floor for 18 points.

Philadelphia scored 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting in the third quarter, which Magic guard J.J. Redick termed "the difference" in the game. During one stretch, the 76ers scored on 13 of 16 possessions, turning a game that had been tied at 42 to one they led, 67-60. Remarkably, two-point jump shots accounted for 8 of those 13 scores. "When a team does that," Redick said, "that's usually an indication that they got things rolling. If you look at the statistics, layups, free throws--and we did put them on the line too much--and three-pointers are generally where teams get a lot of their points." He later attributed the 76ers' hot mid-range jump-shooting to the fact that the Magic weren't "closing hard enough" to their shooters.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, clearly upset after the game, took a bit harsher tone. "That was absurd defense tonight," Van Gundy said during his post-game availability session, citing his team's defensive statistics from the second half multiple times. And he resisted the idea that the new players will lead a defensive resurgence, saying, "The four guys coming in aren't the ones who are going to turn [the defense] around. Those guys in the locker room right now are the ones who need to turn it around."

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
76ers 89 105.4 46.1% 33.8 16.3 13.0
Magic 92 93.7 43.1% 16.1 34.7 16.8
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Without Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis, the Magic only had Quentin Richardson and J.J. Redick available to man the wing positions. Both men played in excess of 40 minutes, but they combined for 15 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Richardson chipped in a season-best 9 rebounds and Redick battled defensively, but if Howard or Bass weren't exploiting their men in one-on-one or back-to-basket situations, Orlando wasn't scoring. Yes, Jameer Nelson scored 17 points, but he shot 7-of-16 from the floor; he can't do it himself.

Van Gundy's decision to put Howard on Brand didn't pay dividends. Last season, Van Gundy tried defending him with Bass, but the veteran big man worked him over anyway. Howard tried, but as Redick said, Brand hit some open two-pointers, which is a shot the Magic concede to most players on most nights.

Problems on both ends affected Orlando tonight, but nobody wanted to blame the effect the trades had on their mental state for the loss. "Make every excuse in the world," Van Gundy said, "[but] that's five straight games where we've done nothing in the second half." Redick agreed, saying "I wouldn't say it was tough or easy [to play shorthanded]. We just did it."

Overall, this game didn't tell us a heckuva lot new about this team. It struggles at times with energy, defense, and shot-creation, which we saw tonight. Perhaps the new folks will improve those deficiencies. We'll see for sure soon enough.