The Sixers’ 116-105 victory over the Magic (see observations) was just that: a complete “Sixers” victory.
This wasn’t about one player taking over or the starting five carrying the weight. From players one through 10 who stepped on the court, everyone contributed.
“It doesn’t matter who scores all the points as long as we win,” Ben Simmons said. “We all know that to get to the next level, that’s what it’s going to take.”
Enhancing the bench is a priority for the Sixers as they look to the playoffs. They are going to need depth in a postseason series, having different weapons as they face the same opponent night in and night out.
Brett Brown was committed to counting on the second unit. The Sixers held a 22-point lead halfway through the fourth, an opportunity for starters to get a significant period of rest ahead of Sunday’s back-to-back on the road against the Wizards.
So as the Magic chipped away at the differential and got within nine, the reserves stayed on the court. Even when Mario Hezonja attempted a trey that would have cut the lead to six with 1:21 remaining, Brown had decided the starters would remain on the sidelines.
“I wasn’t going to do it," Brown said of subbing in the starters. "I was going to go with those guys. Some of it’s just gut feel, maybe some of it’s stubbornness. But we have to grow our bench. We have to give those guys confidence that they can close out games and they did. My intention was to going to be to let them see it through.”
In total, the reserves combined for 32 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists. The bench stepped up in different ways. Marco Belinelli provided a boost on the scoreboard with 15 points. T.J. McConnell absorbed extra playing time and clocked a team-high 31 minutes. (None of the starters played more than 29 minutes.)
Brown determined before the game he would give Richaun Holmes the nod to back up Embiid instead of Amir Johnson. He wanted Holmes, who has played in only three of his last 10 games, to get the opportunity for time on the court (see video). Holmes grabbed eight rebounds with four points in 21 minutes.
“It shows they can hold it down,” Simmons said. “We have guys who are capable of doing that, it doesn’t have to be the starting five.”
The bench's production in this win over the Magic is only a small glimpse into what the Sixers believe they will need to succeed in the postseason.
"Our objective is, in general, playoffs, but I want homecourt advantage," Joel Embiid said. "To know that going into the playoffs you have a bench that can come in and keep the lead or keep building the lead, it's great. In the playoffs you need that, you need a bench to come in and keep it up for the starters, and finish it."