GRADES: Sixers narrowly avoid upset in win over Magic

Seth Curry, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Seth Curry, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Sixers narrowly escape a chilling upset versus the Orlando Magic at home as the teams move one game above .500.

Philadelphia jumped out to an early 19-4 lead in the first quarter as Seth Curry scored nine points and Joel Embiid poured in six points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out three assists. A Matisse Thybulle basket ended the quarter with Philadelphia leading 31-19.

The second quarter was a more even affair as Franz Wagner kept Orlando close while Gary Harris drained a couple of three-pointers to see the 12-point lead shrink to 11. Philadelphia led entering the halftime locker room, 54-43.

Orlando then made their mark in the third quarter. A 17-5 run, punctuated by an 8-0 run, saw Orlando take a four-point lead on a Wendell Carter Jr. dunk with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. The once 16-point lead had been evaporated. As the period went on, Philadelphia was able to reclaim the lead before heading to the fourth quarter 81-78.

Both teams struggled offensively in the final quarter as each team had nearly matching three-minute spurts without scoring. An 89-82 game with 7:29 remaining was an 83-89 until the 4:44 mark. With F. Wagner working to keep Orlando afloat, they eventually tied the game at 93 on a Mo Bamba dunk with less than a minute remaining.

The next possession Embiid drew a shooting foul that saw F. Wagner appear to twist his ankle. After sinking his free throws, F. Wagner came down and launched a three-pointer seemingly trying to shoot versus attack and that miss was enough for Philadelphia to extend the lead and close out the game from the charity stripe, 101-96.

Grades from the Sixers’ victory over the rebuilding Orlando Magic

  • Joel Embiid: C-

Embiid had a double-double with five assists and was still the mountainous presence he normally is. That said, it was clear that his game hasn’t fully rounded into form as he returns from Covid. Fresh off an utterly dominant performance in the 2OT loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Embiid appeared sluggish. He couldn’t fight through Mo Bamba (who is so much better this year) and looked weak in the legs as the game wore on. Embiid helped ice the game with free throws at the end, but even those were flat as he missed two of four. There’s no worry he will round back into form, but with an improved Eastern Conference, there is some pressure to find that gear sooner than later.

  • Tobias Harris: C-

Harris had a less than stellar game on both ends of the floor. He wasn’t tasked with guarding F.Wagner often, but his performance on that end left much to be desired. Wagner was able to get by him and Carter Jr. was able to use his size as Orlando employed the two big lineups for much of the game. On the other end, everything felt difficult. Like Embiid, he’s still in the process of regaining his form.

  • Seth Curry: A+

Curry was one of the few bright spots in a game without many for Philadelphia. While Maxey has received most of the local praise of late, Curry has been instrumental to the team’s success whenever he has played.  He likely won’t see a large enough statistical jump, but Curry should be a candidate for the Most Improved Player award as he flirts with a 50/40/90 season while often being the offensive savior for Philadelphia.

  • Andre Drummond: B+

Andre Drummond has been a rather great performer for Philadelphia all season. Longtime fans know the plight of the backup position behind Embiid and are quite thankful this time of year for Drummond. Tonight, he imposed himself on the boards as really only he can while being active on defense and taking the offense that he seemingly manufactures via offensive rebounds.

  • Matisse Thybulle: B

Matisse Thybulle has become known well enough around league circles that its best to steer your offense away from him. One of the best players in navigating screens, recovering, and contesting with his wiry length. All of that said, it’s nights like these where Thybulle needs to take away a guy like F. Wagner. When the other team has a non-big who is playing above their standard, Thybulle needs to help cut off their dominance or his value is only so great. The offensive strides haven’t been what fans might hope so that defensive shut down effort needs to be there.

Orlando will get an opportunity to bounce back but will likely have to do so taking on the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic. As for Philadelphia, they will head on the road to take on the rival Boston Celtics on Wednesday with both teams entering play at 11-10.

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