Orlando Magic

Challenging week ahead, but time for Sixers to feast after

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Challenging week ahead, but time for Sixers to feast after

The Sixers yawned their way to a 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic at home last night. Orlando put a half-scare into the Sixers by leaping out to a 15-6 lead over a sluggish-looking home team, but the Ballers quickly regained momentum — credit Brett Brown for having the instinct to put Richaun Holmes in off the bench for an energy boost, and credit Holmes for actually providing it — and then the Sixers cruised from there, with Joel Embiid putting up 28 points and 14 boards (on 10-17 FG) in 27 minutes, Robert Covington hitting four threes for the first time in a month and the bench doing just enough to keep the starters from having to re-enter in the fourth. 

It should have been an easy win against the Magic, and essentially, it was. The Sixers moved to 32-25 on the year, comfortably leading the reeling eight-place Heat by 2.5 games and ninth-place Pistons by 4.5 games in the East standings as of Sunday morning, winners of seven in a row and still undefeated at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. Brown's crew has mostly made it look easy the last few weeks — but now it's about to get hard again. Briefly. 

Tonight, the Sixers kick off a three-game road trip in Washington, playing a Wizards team that was supposed to be an easy target for the Sixers to pass in the playoff race once star point guard John Wall was ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury. But backup point guard Tomas Satoransky has flourished in Wall's place, shooting guard Bradley Beal has emerged as fully weaponized and the Wizards have gone an improbable 8-3 in Wall's absence, still leading the Sixers by one game in the standings. 

The Sixers' other two games this trip are also against playoff competition — the 31-29 Heat and the 35-23 third-place Cavaliers — meaning postseason implications are aplenty over the next week. It could end with the red-hot Sixers finally being doused with cold water, or it could close with the Sixers making a serious push for home-court advantage in the first round. 

Either way, the trip stands as the last really challenging part of the Sixers' schedule. After this, the Sixers have 22 games remaining, only seven of which come against teams currently ticketed for the postseason — none against the top two squads in either conference and only two of which come back to back, when the Sixers host the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets in consecutive home games towards the end of March. Beside that, it's a whole lot of Hornets, Nets and Hawks for the Sixers, who've earned their chance to fatten up on the lottery-bound after a brutal schedule for the first 2/3 of the season.

It's worth taking a moment at this point to step back and appreciate the big picture here. Two seasons ago, the Sixers entered March still just hoping they would be able to win two more games all season to avoid historic infamy and ended up only barely able to do so. Now, they're not just in the playoff picture, they're a serious threat to enter the postseason as a first-round favorite while their three most productive players are all in their first or second year and their No. 1 overall pick from last season hasn't played since October. Remarkable stuff, and you only hope that all concerned can make it to the finish line with all limbs and appendages still functioning properly. 

No magic needed for Sixers to keep streak alive

No magic needed for Sixers to keep streak alive


Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz kicked off the game by ringing the ceremonial bell and the Sixers wrapped it up by defeating the Magic, 116-105. 

The Sixers (32-25) stretched their winning streak to seven games and remain undefeated at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. 

This game actually was important because of the Magic’s *poor* record (18-41). The Sixers at times have struggled against sub.-500 teams, most recently narrowly escaping the Bulls on Thursday. The Magic is the type of opponent that easily could be overlooked, and the Sixers cannot afford to do that as they vie for playoff seeding.

The Sixers led by as many as 23 points during the game. But with the Sixers’ starters out and four of the five Magic starters in, the Magic cut the deficit to nine points with under a minute to play. It is crucial for the Sixers' bench to be able to close out games like this for establishing depth and giving the starters rest that will benefit the team down the stretch. 

•Joel Embiid recorded his 30th double-double of the season: 28 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes. He dropped 19 in the first half alone. Embiid reached 20 points for the 34th time this season. Check out his only block of the game: 

•Ben Simmons scored in double-digits for the 50th time with 17 points, seven dimes and four rebounds. 

•Brett Brown turned to Richaun Holmes off the bench behind Embiid instead of Amir Johnson. Holmes, who only has appeared in three of the Sixers’ last 10 games, grabbed eight rebounds with four points.

•The Sixers are working on incorporating Marco Belinelli into the second unit. Brown envisions him having a JJ Redick-type role off the bench. The veteran guard scored 15 points in 27 minutes, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 1-for-3 from long range. 

•Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 20 points. He added seven points and seven assists. 

•Wentz now has an open invitation to Sixers games whenever he wants: 

•Up next: The Sixers will begin a three-game road trip Sunday in Washington, D.C., against the Wizards (34-25), who currently hold the coveted fourth seed in the East that comes with homecourt advantage. 

James Harden makes NBA history with offensive explosion

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James Harden makes NBA history with offensive explosion

HOUSTON -- James Harden became the first player in NBA history to score 60 points as part of a triple-double as the short-handed Houston Rockets beat the Orlando Magic 114-107 on Tuesday night.

Harden scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to eclipse the 57 points Calvin Murphy scored in 1978 to break Houston's single-game scoring record. After Harden broke the record, cameras in the arena showed a shot of Murphy, who works on the television broadcast team, smiling and clapping for the Beard, who also had 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

The game was tied at 107 after a basket by Marreese Speights with just under four minutes to play. Neither team scored for more than two minutes after that before Harden took over, scoring the next six points to make it 113-107 with 45 seconds left.

He set the scoring mark when he stepped back and made a 3-pointer before crashing to the court after being fouled by Mario Hezonja. He then made the free throw to give him 60 points and bringing the crowd to its feet.

Harden, who also had four steals and a block, grabbed his 10th rebounds a few seconds later to give him his third triple double this season. He made 17 of 18 free throws and was 19 of 30 from the floor with five 3 pointers.

Hezonja and Speights scored 17 points each for the Magic, who dropped their third straight (see full recap).

Pistons top Cavs as Love breaks left hand
DETROIT -- Andre Drummond had 21 points and 22 rebounds, and the short-handed Detroit Pistons beat Cleveland 125-114 on Tuesday night after the Cavaliers lost Kevin Love to a potentially season-altering hand injury.

Love exited in the first quarter with a broken left hand, and the Pistons took advantage of his absence, snapping an eight-game losing streak despite a roster that was depleted by their blockbuster trade for Blake Griffin.

Detroit gave up three players to get Griffin, and neither he nor the other two players the Pistons received in return were available against Cleveland. Drummond -- whose own status was in question because of an illness -- had a huge game, and Stanley Johnson added a career-high 26 points.

Reggie Bullock added 22 points for the Pistons, and Anthony Tolliver scored 20.

LeBron James scored 21 points for the Cavs, but Cleveland was listless early and outplayed late -- and the result felt secondary to Love's health. The team said he had a non-displaced fracture in his fifth metacarpal and his status would be updated after additional examination Wednesday in Cleveland.

Love played only 4:41 and went scoreless (see full recap).

Rubio, Jazz rout sluggish Warriors
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ricky Rubio scored 23 points and handed out 11 assists as the Utah Jazz stunned the Golden State Warriors 129-99 on Tuesday night.

The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Warriors, who had won seven of eight before facing the Jazz. It was their largest loss of the season.

Utah now has a three-game win streak for just the third time this season.

Joe Ingles led a 3-point barrage by the Jazz that gave the team a 13-point lead at halftime that was extended to 18 at the end of the third quarter. The Aussie knocked down a career-high six triples, finished with 20 points and the Jazz shot 50.0 percent from behind the arc. Rubio continued his recent run of strong play and tied his season-high assists. Derrick Favors added 18 points and 10 rebounds while rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 20

The Jazz hit a season-high 58.2 percent of their shots from the field.

Rudy Gobert anchored a defense that cut off a lot of Golden State drives to the basket and the Warriors never put together one of those offensive runs that typically buries their opponents.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr seemed to waive the white flag with more than six minutes left in the game, pulling his starters.

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 27 points and six rebounds while Kevin Durant finished with 17. Durant and Stephen Curry were a combined 1 for 12 from 3-point range (see full recap).