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Sixers 128, Magic 117: Magic lose, Thunder win, Orlando finishes with third-worst record

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Next stop: the NBA Draft Lottery

Orlando Magic v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Everybody breathe. It’s finally over. And it ended about as well as we could have hoped.

What was arguably the worst season in Orlando Magic history, all things considered, has come to a merciful end. With a 128-117 loss to the Sixers on Sunday, the Magic finished with a record of 21-51 for a .292 winning percentage that ranks percentage-wise as the sixth worst in franchise history:

1989-1990 Orlando Magic: 18-64, .220

2012-2013 Orlando Magic: 20-62, .244

1991-1992 Orlando Magic: 21-61, .256

2003-2004 Orlando Magic: 21-61, .256

2013-2014 Orlando Magic: 23-59, .280

2020-2021 Orlando Magic: 21-51, .292

The losing was expected in a season full of injuries, with the Magic losing more than 400 player games to absence, and fire sale trades, after the Magic spent minutes blowing up a core they spent years running things back with by dealing Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.

After all the trades, and all the injuries, and all the COVID-19 absences, and all the 10-day contract signees, it’s finally over. And it ended with a seventh straight loss. It was an important one, as the Magic loss combined with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s upset victory over the Los Angeles Clippers late Sunday night, gave Orlando sole possession of the third-worst record in the league. That means they’ll share the top odds in the draft lottery with Houston and Detroit, owning a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. They have a 52.1 percent chance of landing in the top four.

The top-seeded Sixers, who entered with nothing to play for, did the Magic no draft lottery favors by resting their entire starting five or Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Seth Curry. But it turned out they didn’t need them.

The Magic started the game 1-for-10 as the Sixers jumped out to a quick 13-3 lead. But then the Magic came out of a timeout and Cole Anthony turned into Allen Iverson, making the final game of his rookie year his best yet. Anthony quickly converted a layup plus the foul on Dwight Howard en route to scoring 13 first-quarter points to help pull the Magic within 32-26 after one.

Chasson Randle scored seven points during a 15-0 Magic run in the second quarter that gave Orlando a 43-37 advantage. The Magic scored 39 points in the second on 55 percent shooting to take a 65-60 lead into the half. Anthony finished the half with 23 points, three shy of his career-high, as he competed in a rookie shootout with Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey, who one-upped Anthony by scoring 24 first-half points.

A 10-2 Sixers run in the third put them up 82-80. It remained mostly a one-possession game until the closing seconds of the quarter when Anthony Tolliver and Isaiah Joe hit a pair of threes to send the Sixers into the fourth up 99-90. The lead would reach as many as 15 in the fourth quarter.

Maxey led the Magic with 30 points. Orlando-native Paul Reed did his part to help his hometown team’s lottery chances by scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, both of which were career-highs by wide margins for the rookie.

Anthony finished with a career-high 37 points, shooting 10-for-25 from the field and going 14-for-14 from line, while also grabbing eight rebounds.

It was the latest encouraging performance - along with Chuma Okeke’s successful rookie season, R.J. Hampton’s production after being acquired, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac’s continued rehab from torn ACLs, etc — that already has fans looking forward to a fresh start with a young core next season.

A young core that could include two top-10 picks from the 2021 NBA Draft.

Thank you, Magic fans, for sticking with us through what was the most challenging season this team has ever experienced. Better days are ahead, hopefully starting with June 22, the date of the draft lottery.