The Magic pushed one of the league’s elite to the brink, but ultimately came up short in overtime.
Orlando, which led by as many as 17 in the game and held a late lead in overtime after a three-point shooting outburst by Cole Anthony, was unable to close out the Sixers in a 116-114 loss.
The Magic were at their best when Markelle Fultz was on the floor creating for his teammates. The point guard shined against his former team, with eight points and 11 assists in just 19 minutes...
Markelle Fultz.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 14, 2022
11 AST in 19 MIN against Philadelphia pic.twitter.com/8zUwcSDiKO
In the first quarter, it was Jalen Suggs who was all over the court for the Magic, recording 10 points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal and one block. The block came when Suggs swatted away a layup attempt by Tyrese Maxey and was then rewarded in transition with a feed from Franz Wagner for the lay in to give the Magic a 20-19 lead.
That was the start of an 11-3 Orlando run that was capped with threes by Gary Harris and Chuma Okeke to open a 29-22 lead. The Magic shot 54 percent in the quarter and led by five after one.
The Magic extended their lead by way of the three-point shot, with Moe Wagner and Okeke hitting early shots from deep in the second, and the fast break, with the Magic outscoring the Sixers in that category 17-0 in the half. Another three by Okeke, who had 10 of his 13 first-half points in the second, extended the Orlando lead to 54-40. Wendell Carter Jr., who had 16 first-half points, followed with his second three of the quarter to give the Magic their largest lead of theme at 57-40.
The Magic shot 53 percent in the half, and 40 percent from deep, to take a 59-47 lead into the break. The Sixers shot just 33 percent, with Tobias Harris leading the way with 15 first-half points. Joel Embiid had 12 points and James Harden had eight, but the star duo combined to shoot just 5-for-23 from the field in the half.
The Magic were held without a field goal over the first seven minutes of the third quarter as the Sixers trimmed the Orlando lead to 61-60.
Fultz then checked in and got the Magic offense in sync, orchestrating a 9-0 Magic run. It started with Fultz driving the lane and delivering a scoop pass to a cutting Mo Bamba for the dunk. After Fultz converted a reverse layup, he found Carter Jr., who drove in for the dunk. Fultz then spun baseline and kicked out a beautiful pass to Bamba, who drained a corner three. The run was capped when Fultz passed it out to Franz Wagner, who hit a runner to give the Magic a 72-63 lead with 3:16 left in the half.
The Sixers went on a run to make it a one-possession game before R.J. Hampton hit a pair of threes in the closing minute to help send the Magic into the fourth with an 80-74 lead.
Fultz’s playmaking continued in the fourth, finding a cutting Moe Wagner for the lay-in and then spinning into the lane, regaining the handle and kicking it to the corner for a Harris three and Fultz’s 10th assist of the game. Fultz then knocked down a three of his own to push the Magic lead back to double-figures at 88-78.
The Sixers later went on a 16-4 run, capped with Harden and Embiid hitting threes that put Philly in front at 101-98 with 4:12 left. Cole Anthony hit four free throws to pull the Magic even at 104-104 with 3:05 remaining for what would be the final points of regulation, with Tyrese Maxey missing a three at the buzzer.
Anthony hit three triples over a 2:09 span to give the Magic a 113-109 lead with 1:25 remaining in overtime.
But Harden responded with a layup and then kicked it out to Harris, who drained a three to give the Sixers a 114-113 lead with 31.7 seconds remaining. Anthony hit back rim on a contested three at the buzzer, as Orlando was denied its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Embiid struggled from the field, shooting 9-for-28, but went 15-for-17 from the line and finished with 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. Harden also shot poorly from the field (5-for-19) and well from the line (13-for-15) to finish with 26 points. Harris also had 26 points for the Sixers, who shot just 38 percent but went 32-for-37 from the line for a plus-18 free throw advantage.
Carter Jr. finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Magic. Anthony added 19 points and eight rebounds. Suggs, after scoring 10 points in the first was held scoreless the remainder of the game as he missed all seven of his three-point attempts. Orlando finished with six players in double figures with Okeke scoring all 13 of his points in the first half, Hampton adding 11, and Moe Wagner scoring 10. Bamba, who in the Magic’s last matchup against Philly had a career-high 32 points, was held to five points and five rebounds.
Valiant effort by the Magic, who host another star-studded team on Tuesday when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets come to town.