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Sixers 118, Magic 98: Sixers continue putting faith in their method (or something like that)

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A balanced effort helped the Sixers embarrass the Magic on their home court

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will not have a losing season this year. For the first time since ‘11-’12, the Sixers will finish the season .500 or better.

Of course, with their 118-98 dominant win over the Magic, the Sixers continued Thursday night their push towards the NBA playoffs and will finish ‘17-’18 well above .500 (currently sit 41-30, 4th in the East).

Behind a balanced attack, the Sixers jumped all over the lethargic Magic. Philadelphia was led by Joel Embiid, who scored 17 points and pulled down 9 boards (in 20 minutes). Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli chipped in with 18 points and 15 points off Philadelphia’s bench respectively.

Philadelphia was dialed in offensively from the get go. The Sixers dished out 13 first quarter assists and got a big boost from Belinelli and Ilyasova, who combined for 13 points off the bench in the opening period.

The Sixers continued to separate themselves from the Magic in the second quarter, a period in which they marched to the free throw line 14 times. Embiid had himself a monster second quarter, scoring 11 of his 15 first half points in the period.

Philadelphia took a 21-point lead into halftime primarily due to two factors: Orlando’s lack of fast-break points and their inability to effectively box out.

The Sixers out-rebounded the Magic 27-15 in the first half, while converting 16 fast-break points (Orlando did not record a fast-break point in the first half).

“That was a big part of our defensive failures in the first half,” Frank Vogel said, when asked about his team’s transition defense. “We didn’t get balance on our shots, and then we didn’t get matched-up on the other end.”

Things continued to go woefully for the Magic in the third. The Sixers stretched their lead to 35 with 2:58 left in the third quarter and never looked back. The Magic went 4-23 from the field in the period.

Philadelphia, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, was able to rest all of their main rotation guys for most of the second half. The Sixers played without their starters in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive night.

Rookie point guard Ben Simmons, who played his high school ball at Montverde Academy in Central Florida, led Philadelphia’s starters in minutes played (26:32), rebounds (11), and assists (10).

The lone bright spot for the Magic tonight was the effort shown by the guys on the floor who finished the game, namely Rodney Purvis. Orlando outscored Philadelphia 33-23 in the fourth quarter to ultimately make the final score look a lot closer than the game really was.

Purvis scored a career-high 19 points (8-12 FG, 3-5 3PT) in 22 minutes.

The Magic were playing down four guys in their main rotation. Jonathan Isaac missed tonight’s game with a sore left foot, and Jonathon Simmons missed his second straight game with an injured wrist. Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross continued to be out of action as well.

“It is what it is,” Vogel said after the game. “We all understand the situation. It’s not fun to be a part of (the injuries). But our guys have played with a lot of integrity for most of this stretch of the season that we’ve been out of it. We gave in and we relented when they went on a couple of their runs.”

“Part of changing the culture is not relenting. Not giving up when the other team is kicking your butt.”

It seemed like Orlando’s starters gave up a little bit tonight. Their shots weren’t falling (starters went 15-49), they were lackadaisical getting back on defense. Their court awareness and balance was atrocious; they just didn’t compete.

Coach Vogel deserved better from his team tonight.

Vogel was asked at the end of an exasperating night if he was trying to get tossed (when he was issued a technical foul in the second quarter. “No. If I wanted to get tossed, I would’ve gotten tossed. I wanted to get a tech though; sometimes you have to get a technical foul to get their attention.”

Orlando will be back in action Saturday night against the lottery-bound Phoenix Suns. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00.