ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Philadelphia forced Orlando into 21 turnovers, including 3 in the final 2:50 seconds and T.J. McConnell’s jumper with 5.8 seconds left, allowing the 76ers to win a close game against the Orlando Magic Thursday night by a score of 112-111.
The Sixers entered the game without star rookie center Joel Embiid, who missed the last seven games due to a knee injury, and rookie Ben Simmons who has not played a single minute since injuring his foot in preseason. Despite that, they produced a total team effort. Philadelphia’s other talented rookie Dario Saric led them in scoring off the bench with 24 points (his third straight 20+ point effort). He also added 8 rebounds and three important 3-point baskets.
Speaking of the Sixers bench, they scored 65 points as a group. Outside of Saric’s 24 points, they also got 13 from Nik Stauskas and 12 from Sergio Rodriguez.
“We don’t win tonight without the bench. They were unbelievable. They came in and picked us up. All credit to them, they did an incredible job.” -T.J. McConnell, 76ers Point Guard
Orlando was in control most of the game, even though their starting Small Forward Aaron Gordon was not available due to a foot injury. (He could be available for Saturday’s game in Dallas.) Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel decided to use a three-guard lineup with Mario Hezonja getting the start with C.J. Watson and Evan Fournier. Mario had 3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 18 minutes.
“Yes, it’s a bad loss. There’s no other way to say it. We should’ve won by 15 tonight, maybe 20. We just kept letting them come back into the game, so, yes, a bad loss.” – Evan Founier on the Magic letting the lead slip away
But key defensive lapses late in the game spoiled what would have been a huge win for the team as they go on a two-game road trip starting this weekend in Dallas. After Elfrid Payton’s layup with 7:16 left in the 4th quarter to give the Magic a 98-90 lead, the Sixers defense and Saric took control.
In just over a 3-minute period after the layup, Philadelphia got a block from Nerlens Noel on D.J. Augustin, a key steal from Robert Covington and forced the Magic into missing all three shots on defense and Saric scored 7 of the 8 Sixers points to tie score at 98. Saric continued to go through the Magic defense by effectively scoring off the pick and roll and finding easy baskets in the final quarter.
Orlando took a 111-110 lead on Nikola Vucevic’s jump hook over McConnell with 26.7 seconds left, which brought the crowd to its feet. But after Ersan Ilyasova’s jump ball win over Evan Fournier with 14.6 seconds left, it allowed McConnell to go one-on-one with Watson and he hit a pull-up jumper in the paint to give Philadelphia the win.
“This is my so-called second career game winner in however many years of playing basketball so I can’t be that clutch but I heard Joel (Embiid) had different words to say so I’ll let him be the judge.” – McConnell on his game winning shot
Points Of Interest:
- Orlando held Philadelphia to 42.9% shooting from the floor
- Only one Sixers starter scored in double-figures — Ilyasova had 16
- Philadelphia had 13 steals in the game, led by Robert Covington, McConnell and Saric who all had 3 apiece
Danny Thompson is a sports reporter for Florida National News.