It’s not always about how you start, but sometimes about how you finish.
The Magic came out firing on offense early, knocking down 11-of-19 from the field, and 4-of-5 from three in the opening quarter. Their offense looked fluid, and effortless against one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Their strong play on offense did not translate on defense, as they came out of the gates sluggish on that end, struggling to slow down the Sixers in any aspect. Philadelphia picked them apart in the pick-and-roll, and got seemingly anything they wanted.
That didn’t last all night for the Sixers, as the Magic buckled down in a big way late, holding the Sixers to just 15 fourth quarter points. The Magic shut them down in every way possible, while they watched their offense find a rhythm after falling off the tracks in the middle quarters.
Philadelphia made just six of their 19 attempts in the closing quarter, while the Magic made 13 of 23.
The strong closing came in large part to the strong play of D.J. Augustin, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. The trio combined for 22 of Orlando’s 32 fourth quarter points, with Vucevic leading all scorers with 25 on the night.
Gordon, who struggled on the defensive end in the first half, showed off a bit of his all-around game, finishing with 18 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. His defense late also was a key for the Magic, who kept the high-flying Ben Simmons quiet late.
Despite their strong play to open and close the game, things weren’t always easy for the Magic on Wednesday night.
Their offense struggled, making just 14 of 43 attempts in the second and third quarters. They were out of rhythm, and had troubles taking care of the ball as well, allowing the Sixers to control much of the middle portion of the game.
A 12-0 run in the third quarter gave the Sixers their biggest lead of the game at eight, prompting a timeout from Steve Clifford. Out of that timeout, the Magic began their run, tying the game back up at 71 in the blink of an eye.
Despite trailing by two heading into the fourth, the momentum had changed, and it seemed clear the game was swinging into the Magic’s direction.
Orlando’s bench outscored the Sixers bench 35-28, including 24-9 in the second half, led by Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams, who really sparked their run to get them back into it in the third quarter.
Josh Richardson, who had a back-and-forth with Carter-Williams in the third quarter, led the Sixers with 19 on the night. Simmons, who got wherever, and whatever he wanted in the first half, finished the night with 18.
On the night, seven of the nine Magic men who played more than 10 minutes finished in double figures. Facing one of the best defensive teams in the league, finding that balance was a big key in the Magic coming from behind.
With two games left on their five game home stand, the Magic must find a way to carry over the momentum they have into Friday night’s contest with the San Antonio Spurs, and Sunday nights tilt with the Washington Wizards.