Coming off a late loss at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the Orlando Magic returned to action in Philadelphia in what coach Scott Skiles categorized as a "must-win" against the 76ers. Despite playing some of their worst defense in the recent weeks, the Magic were able to take home a needed win against the Sixers, 124-115.
Out of the gates, the Magic looked energized, jumping out to an early eight point lead behind six early points from Nikola Vucevic. Along with their hot start shooting, the Magic played lock down defense in the early portion of the quarter, appearing to be showing off the improvements they had made over their last six we beginning to stick. That quickly changed, however, with the Sixers beginning to knock down shot after shot, making 10 of their final 15 attempts in the quarter, including four three-balls. Despite leading by as many as nine the Magic saw their lead dwindle back down to two by the end of the quarter, up 33-31 on the lowly Sixers.
Into the second quarter, each team continued their torrid offensive pace. Behind continued hot shooting from the field, and poor defense, the two sides combined 65 second quarter points, with the Magic's four three-pointers giving them a slight edge. After pushing their lead up to a game-high 11 late, the Magic began crumbling, allowing the Sixers to scratch and claw their way back to within five at the halftime break. Orlando's 67 first half points tied their season high for a first half, with the team up 67-62 on the host Sixers.
Following the halftime break, the Magic continued to struggle mightily on the defensive end. Philadelphia started the quarter making 10 of their first 12 shots, helping them take a six point lead on the struggling Magic. The Sixers cooled off, however, with the Magic finishing the quarter on a 15-4 run to take a slim four point lead, 97-93 heading into the fourth. With shots falling left and right for each team, the one that steps up and plays defense, even if it's only for a short period, would likely take home the win.
Up four, the Magic finally decided to start playing defense in the fourth quarter. Behind an early 11-to-4 run, the Magic jumped out to their biggest lead of the game at 13, never looking back. Despite playing, generally, poorly for three quarters, the Magic were able to find a way and take home a needed win against the worst team in the league.
Nikola Vucevic led all scorers, finishing with a season-high 35. Despite fouling out, Evan Fournier added 21, with Victor Oladipo finishing with 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. Aaron Gordon showed off his hops, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova scored 10 off the bench, while taking a pair of charges to add to his league-high of 30 coming into the night.
Former Magic guard Ish Smith led the Sixers, scoring 22 on the night. Jahlil Okafor showed off his entire offensive game, finishing with 17 points, with Nerlens Noel adding 16 points and 11 rebounds. Hollis Thompson added 14 off the bench, with Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan each finishing with 12.