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Magic 113, 76ers 100: Orlando Sizzles, Keeps Philadelphia Reeling

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 Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

A balanced Orlando Magic squad picked up its second straight victory Monday evening, 113-100, over the Philadelphia 76ers, in the first career start for rookie center Daniel Orton. Ryan Anderson scored 26 points to lead six Orlando players in double-figure scoring, on top of pulling in a game-high 16 rebounds. Jameer Nelson scored 16 points and dished 13 assists, while Earl Clark came off the bench and posted a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double, the first of his three-year career. Playing without Dwight Howard and Glen Davis, two of its top three bigs, Orlando lit up Philly, which leads the league in points allowed per possession, to the tune of 53.3 percent shooting from the field and 61.1 percent shooting from three-point range.

Jason Richardson and Quentin Richardson erupted in the crucial second quarter for the host Magic, which dealt the 76ers their 12th loss in their last 18 games. The pair combined for 20 of the Magic's 40 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-3 from three-point range, helping Orlando erase a deficit that had reached as many as nine points in the first quarter. Chris Duhon's triple off a Clark feed at the 5:32 mark of the second broke a 40-all tie and gave Orlando a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
76ers 88.9 112.5 55.6% 13.8 10.8 9.0
Magic 88.9 127.1 59.4% 6.7 33.3 12.4
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Sixers coach Doug Collins shuffled his lineup to better match-up with the short, shorthanded Magic, sliding combo forward Thaddeus Young into the starting five, shifting the 6-foot-8 Elton Brand from power forward to center, and moving Spencer Hawes to the bench. It didn't exactly work: Orton helped limit Brand to nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes, and though Young scored 15 points, he only hauled in two rebounds in his 29 minutes of burn. According to NBA.com's stats database, Collins' new starting five grabbed only 34.6 percent of available rebounds in the 14 minutes it played Monday.

Playing without Howard regularly for the first time since they drafted him in 2004 has forced the Magic to play a much different brand of basketball. Without their defensive anchor and lone double-team-drawer, Orlando has to rely on ball movement to score, and (essentially) prayer to prevent the other team from doing so. Monday's was a rare instance in which Orlando managed to outgun its opponent. Normally an offensively challenged club, Philly shot 50 percent from the field and from three-point range, and committed only eight turnovers against the Magic. The key was keeping the Sixers off the offensive glass: the visitors grabbed only 10.8 percent of their misses thanks to brilliant glass-cleaning from Anderson and Clark, who combined for 18 of the Magic's 33 defensive boards.

One can't always expect Orlando to vibe offensively as it did Monday, but the victory is nonetheless a solid one, as it helps it keep pace with the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It also gives Orlando a four-game edge in the loss column over Philadelphia and the New York Knicks. As Philly and New York have just six games left, it's exceptionally unlikely either will catch Orlando, meaning the Magic will almost assuredly avoid drawing either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat as a first-round playoff opponent.

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