Sixers-Magic observations: No Ben Simmons, no problem

Sixers-Magic observations: No Ben Simmons, no problem


It had all the makings of a letdown.

No Ben Simmons.

A sick Joel Embiid.

A Magic team hungry to break a seven-game losing streak. 

Don’t be fooled by the slow start. The Sixers (11-7) took care of business Saturday night and dealt the Magic (8-12) their eighth straight loss, 130-111, at the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Sixers lagged early on. They didn’t get on the board for nearly the first two minutes and committed four turnovers in less than five minutes. Meanwhile, the Magic jumped out to an eight-point lead by bigs (and former Sixers) Nikola Vucevic and Mo Speights taking advantage of a visibly hampered Embiid, who had been probable earlier in the day because of a cold. The Magic missed six field goal attempts late in the first, however, and the Sixers outscored them, 15-7, in the final 4:30 of the quarter to lead 31-28.

• Embiid looked … tired. The cold seemed to be getting to him, as he shot 1 for 5 and committed three turnovers in the first quarter. That quick rest lying on the ground next to the Sixers' bench did him some good, to say the least.

Embiid scored 10 points in the first three minutes of the second quarter. He ran up the scoreboard with a mix of threes, jumpers, and-ones and layups. Embiid set a new mark for most points by a Sixer in the second quarter (12) in just the first 4:30.

He easily tallied his ninth double-double of the season: 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in over 28 minutes. 

• T.J. McConnell recorded his sixth career double-double filling in for Simmons, who injured his left elbow Wednesday (see story). The do-all point guard posted 15 points (7 for 12 from the field), 13 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and a block. McConnell notably did this while committing just one turnover in 37 minutes.

• JJ Redick said so much time has passed and so many faces have changed since he played his first six-plus seasons on the Magic, this was like another game for him. The Sixers would like to see another performance like this in another game … and another … and another. Redick scored 29 points shooting 8 for 12 from three. He set a Wells Fargo Center record with six three-pointers made in the first half, the most by any player in any half in the building. He had an obvious chemistry with McConnell, who assisted on five of Redick’s baskets.

• Remember that big-big experiment, the one that didn’t pan out so well in the past? On Saturday, it showed potential. Richaun Holmes played alongside both Embiid and Amir Johnson. Holmes, who has played power forward in his career, is athletic enough to slide over to the four spot and spread the floor for the other centers who like to shoot from long range.

• Brett Brown said, as of early Saturday evening, there had not been a decision made about Simmons' availability for Monday against the Cavaliers. Simmons began his rehab and treatment on Thanksgiving, the day after the injury occurred. 

• The Magic began the season 6-2 but lost seven straight, their last victory on Nov. 10. The Sixers became the fourth team to score more than 120 points in the Magic’s last eight games. 

• Injury updates: In addition to Simmons, Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) did not play. The Magic were without sixth overall pick Jonathan Isaac (right ankle).

• New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler rang the bell to kick off the game.

Actor and Delaware native Ryan Phillippe sat courtside near Kapler. Rapper Lil Dicky, who grew up in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, also was seated in the same row. 

• For all the jerseys worn to Sixers games, this one really stood out on Twitter:

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

USA Today Images

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).