By Adesina O. Koiki
PHILADELPHIA – In a way, the Orlando Magic played a team on Saturday night they hope resembles what their rebuilding project will look like in just a couple of seasons.
Orlando went into the Wells Fargo Center and was humbled by the upstart Philadelphia 76ers, 130-111, extending its losing streak to a season-long eight straight. Guard Elfrid Payton led all Magic players with 22 points, and he also contributed eight rebounds and nine assists.
While Orlando is still trying to rebuild and once again become a contender in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers are now seeing all of their young talent starting to settle in as NBA ready as they have gone from perennial cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference to one of the league’s up-and-coming teams. Joel Embiid, the centerpiece in the rebuilding job dubbed “The Process,” had 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick led the Sixers with 29 points, including hitting eight three-pointers.
Philadelphia was playing this game without last year’s No.1 overall selection in the NBA Draft, as point guard Ben Simmons sat out to the game due to a sore elbow. In his stead, backup guard T.J. McConnell started and had one of the best games of his career: 15 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.
The loss could have been easily predicted for the Magic, outside of the fact that it was already on a long losing streak coming into the game; Orlando was playing its fifth game in eight days and the Sixers game was the second of a back-to-back after playing the Eastern Conference leading Celtics last night in Boston. Philadelphia had not played since their win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
“It’s tough because they’ve been off for a couple of days and we played (Friday) night in Boston and they were a step quicker to most things,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “[The 76ers are] a good team. Credit them, they played really well.’’
Other than an early eight-point lead in the first quarter and a run which cut their halftime deficit of 15 to seven early in the third quarter, the Magic were not really in the game. The 130 points by Philadelphia not only were the most points allowed by the Magic this season, but was the first time the Sixers scored that many points in a regulation game since 1994.
“We’ll break out of this [streak],’’ said Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who scored 16 points and had nine rebounds. “We can’t panic and we have to stay composed. It’s that balance of not panicking, but at the same time playing very urgent.’’
The Magic will look to break their eight-game losing streak against the Indiana Pacers on Mon. Nov. 27, the last game of a four-game road trip. After that, Orlando returns home to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at Amway Center on Wed. Nov. 29.