It’s been a struggle for Evan Fournier shooting the basketball for most of this season.
Just don’t tell the Philadelphia 76ers that. Fournier, who already logged 31-point and 25-point games against the Sixers earlier this season, exploded in the third quarter en route to 24 points (11-17 FGA’s) as the Orlando Magic defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 119-98 Monday night.
Orlando closed out their five-game home-stand undefeated and now head to Miami tomorrow night for one of the franchise’s biggest games in the post-Dwight Howard era. Orlando trails Miami by one-half game for the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
Michael Carter-Williams, who was signed by the Magic to a second 10-day contract earlier in the day, added a season-high 15 points to go along with 6 rebounds off Orlando’s bench.
The Sixers were really sloppy with the basketball early in the game. Despite knocking down 7 of their first 10 shots, Philadelphia stayed even with Orlando, mostly due to their seven first quarter turnovers (which led to six Magic points).
An overall thoroughly entertaining opening period produced 11 lead changes between the Magic and Sixers. Orlando made four three-point attempts (4-9 3PTA’s), but Philadelphia took advantage of their opponent’s overly aggressive defense as they marched to the free throw line 11 times in the opening quarter (8-11 FTA’s).
Philadelphia got a lift from a trio of players off their bench in the first half. Forward Mike Scott scored 7 points in the first quarter (was held scoreless the rest of the way), rookie guard Shake Milton scored 7 of his 13 points in the second quarter, and center Boban Marjanovic chipped in 4 points and 6 rebounds in the first half.
The Magic did a better job not fouling the Sixers in the second quarter, but their overall defense still left a lot to be desired. Philadelphia shot 62% in the first half, led by their All-Star center Joel Embiid. Embiid was a load for the Magic to handle, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the opening half of play.
Turning the tables on the Sixers, it was the Magic who marched to the free throw line ten times (10-10 FTA’s) in the second quarter. Despite Philadelphia’s hot early shooting, Orlando stayed in the game by taking care of the basketball and limiting the Sixers’ fast-break opportunities.
And then the third quarter happened (and HAPPENED it did). Fournier was a man on fire, knocking down his first five shots of the period. Orlando’s veteran shooting guard scored 12 of Orlando’s first 16 points in the third quarter.
The third quarter is also when Carter-Williams started to really shine. The backup point guard scored six points in the period (+9). Carter-Williams’ night was best exemplified by a play midway through the third where he missed a three-point attempt badly (short on the shot), but quickly followed his own shot and layed the ball-in before anyone on Philadelphia could react.
If at first you don't succeed ... pic.twitter.com/FSIzxTXVPP— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 26, 2019
The Magic shot 68% as a team in the third quarter, resulting in arguably one of their best 12:00 minute performances of the season (outscored Philadelphia 32-17).
Things actually went really well for much longer than that. Orlando went on a 42-11 run between the third and fourth quarters to put the game away. The Magic held the Sixers to 38 points in the second half, a far cry from the 60 points they scored in the first half.
All-Star center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 28 points (11-21 FGA’s). Vucevic also snagged 11 rebounds and dished-out 4 assists.
Embiid finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. However, a lot of that came early for Embiid. He also committed five turnovers. Former Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who has haunted his former team this season, was held to 2 of 10 shooting (1-7 3PTA’s, 8 points).
The Magic don’t have a lot of time to sit back and reflect on Monday night’s game. The team will head south to take on their Southeast-Division foes with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.
My goodness, it’s been a while. But playing meaningful games in March sure does feel good.