Just when the Philadelphia 76ers were surging with seven consecutive victories, they surprisingly stumbled against the Orlando Magic.
The Sixers let a 21-point lead dissipate and fell 119-109 to the Magic on Monday.
In an infrequent scheduling twist, the Sixers once again will host the Magic on Wednesday.
“There’s no big picture. It’s just one game,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “Alright, so I’m not going to overreact to it or anything like that, but there are things that we have to do better, and that’s even if we had won the game by 20. We are always a work in progress. That’s the way I look at our team.”
Joel Embiid led the way with 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, the ninth time this season he has posted at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
James Harden and Tobias Harris added 17 points apiece, but the Sixers’ defense scuffled in the second half and especially in the final minute with two costly turnovers.
“I think you have to respect everyone in the NBA,” Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle said. “When you come into a game expecting to win and then get up big early, it takes a lot of mental toughness to continue playing the way you’re playing and then being able to adjust as well when they make their runs.”
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the Sixers and Magic this season. The 76ers won the first two.
The upstart Magic have continued to improve with a 15-11 mark after a 5-20 start.
Paolo Banchero was stellar with 29 points and nine rebounds. Moritz Wagner scored 22 points and Franz Wagner had 19.
“We can play with anybody,” said Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick by the Magic in the 2022 draft. “We can beat anybody. We’re a very good team. We just have to learn how to put this effort out every single night.”
The balanced effort was evident as Wendell Carter Jr. had 12 points and nine rebounds and Markelle Fultz contributed 12 points and 10 assists.
The young Magic have beaten the Boston Celtics three times and the Golden State Warriors twice, and they’ll be looking for their second win against the 76ers.
While they’re far from a finished product, it’s clear that the Magic are trending in a positive direction.
“Again, I think it goes back to just believing,” said Fultz, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Sixers in 2017. “You know, understanding that as long as we believe and continue to fight every night, it gives ourselves a chance against any team in this league. We work for that. We’re all putting in the work and we should believe that. Again, we just got to continue to build, continue to get better every day and win the game.”
The wins will continue if the Magic keep improving defensively like they did against the Sixers.
“They showed up. They showed up defensively,” Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley said. “They shared the basketball. I’m so proud of this group.”