Orlando Magic

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 (cold) will play vs. Magic

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Joel Embiid (cold) will play vs. Magic

UPDATED: 5:38 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- While the Sixers will be without Ben Simmons tonight against the Magic, they will have Joel Embiid in the lineup.

The big man was listed as probable because of a cold, but he will play and start.

Simmons suffered a left elbow injury in Wednesday's game against the Trail Blazers and will be reevaluated Sunday. T.J. McConnell will start in his place (see story).

Jerryd Bayless will backup McConnell, while Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson will come off the bench as frontcourt options.

Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) also are injured. 

The 10-7 Sixers will look to extend their winning streak against an 8-11 Magic team that comes to Philadelphia on a seven-game losing skid. 

Give and Go: How will Sixers fare on season-long homestand?

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Give and Go: How will Sixers fare on season-long homestand?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we'll look at whether the Sixers can keep their momentum going during their upcoming six-game homestand.

At first glance, I thought the Sixers were looking at a winning homestand of 4-2. But with the latest injury to Justin Anderson (out at least three weeks with shin splints), the Sixers’ depth chart at guard could severely cripple those hopes. 

While they start Ben Simmons at point guard and JJ Redick at the shooting guard, the bench is left with only T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and rookie Furkan Korkmaz.

It’s hard to believe that guard rotation (or even a fully healthy one) would slow down Golden State. That's likely a loss any way you look at it with the Warriors coming off Thursday's loss to Boston.

The Sixers should handle Utah just as they did in Salt Lake City. But after that, the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will likely be tough to endure.

Orlando should offer a very strong chance at a win. The Magic have cooled off since a 6-2 start. Any team that can lose to the Bulls at home should be beatable by Brett Brown's squad.

The last two games against Cleveland and Washington should be great measuring sticks as top teams in the East. Both the Cavaliers and Wizards have been inconsistent. You'd hope the Sixers would be a little healthier by the last two games on the homestand. It will likely come down to late-game execution and I can see the Sixers earning a split.

So that's a 3-3 homestand from my vantage point with a chance to get a fourth win depending on Joel Embiid's availability. But with six games in 12 days, you have to wonder if "load management" won't play a factor here. So I'll stick with a shorthanded 3-3, accounting for the possibility of a JoJo no-show.​

This is tricky because it combines how well the Sixers are currently playing with the level of competition set to enter the Wells Fargo Center.

On the Sixers’ end, things couldn’t be much better. The team capped off the five-game road trip with an exclamation mark as Joel Embiid put on a show for the ages against the Clippers and Lakers in Los Angeles. More importantly, the Sixers finished the trip with a 3-2 mark (should have been 4-1 if not for the “rogue” moment in Sacramento). Either way, the Sixers are in a solid position as they return to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time in just over two weeks.

As for the opponents, there aren’t any real slouches on the slate. The only team the Sixers will face below the .500 mark is the Rudy Gobert-less Utah Jazz, who they already took care of on the road.

Things get started with the champion Golden State Warriors, who had won seven straight prior to Thursday’s loss to Boston. The Sixers will also face Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers before a date with the surprising Orlando Magic. They finish off the home stretch with Eastern Conference heavyweights Cleveland and Washington.

I would say a split would be more than acceptable for the Sixers, but I’ll get a bit greedy and say the young squad feeds off the home crowd’s energy to go 4-2 during the stint with losses only to the Warriors and Cavaliers.

Unfortunately, the homestand will likely start with an L to the Warriors. As Marshall alluded to, the Warriors are coming off a loss Thursday. That does not bode well for the Sixers.

The team has been playing at such a high level. Here’s the crazy thing though: they went 3-2 on a West Coast trip where Redick and Dario Saric, two extremely important cogs in the Sixers’ lineup, contributed very little. 

Redick will right the ship. He has the track record. Sometimes, you’re just off. If it’s a mechanical issue, you know Redick will get it figured out. Saric’s struggles are likely the result of a role change and fatigue from playing so much basketball. While he doesn’t have the track record of Redick, I expect Saric to bounce back as well. 

Still, the Sixers are up against a gauntlet. After Saturday’s matchup with Golden State, the team hosts the Jazz, Trail Blazers and Magic before wrapping the homestand against the Wizards and Cavs. In my eyes, that’s three very winnable games and three extremely challenging contests. If they go 3-3, there would be nothing to be upset about.

But I think they pull out one of the games against the Wizards or Cavs and they go 4-2 over the next six games at the Wells Fargo Center.