There was some African talent on display as the Orlando Magic beat the Philadelphia 76ers 103-101 in a close game at the Wells Fargo Center. Serge Ibaka impressed as he finished the night with 21 points four rebounds and two blocks. He also hit the game winning free throws for the Magic. His teammate Bismack Biyombo ony scored two points but grabbed eight boards, dished two assists and blocked a shot.
For the Sixers Joel Embiid registered the first double-double of his career, tallying 18 points and 10 rebounds. The big man also supplied four blocked shots.
Upon assuming his position at the post-game podium, Sixers coach Brett Brown let out an exasperated sigh. Understandable. Tuesday’s narrow loss to Orlando really did end in that agonizing of a fashion.
With 5.7 seconds left in regulation, and the score even at 101-101, the Sixers were preparing for a crucial – likely decisive – defensive stand, after leading by as many as 18 points in the second quarter.
Positioned in the halfcourt, Orlando sent a sideline inbounds pass to Nik Vucevic, who lost control of the ball at the foul line. Joel Embiid gave chase, but the rock bounced away and bounded to the block, where Serge Ibaka was station, unguarded.
The only Sixer in the vicinity, T.J. McConnell had no choice. Rather than let Ibaka go in for an easy lay-up, the point guard was forced to foul. The impact of the collision was so strong that both McConnell and Ibaka ended up on the floor. A few feet away, Embiid was also down, having gotten knocked over during the scramble for the loose ball.
All three players needed a few moments to collect themselves before getting to their feet. At that point, only 1.4 seconds remained. Ibaka went to the stripe, and sunk his free throws. The Sixers were out of time. The stinging outcome of Tuesday’s close contest spoiled another strong start by the Sixers, and several stellar individual performances. Fueled by strong guard play from Gerald Henderson and Sergio Rodriguez, the Sixers burst out of the gates, opening the evening with a 10-0 run. They held a 29-24 advantage at the end of the first quarter, and increased the margin to 14 points, 57-43, by halftime.
Despite entering the night having converted just 39.0 percent of its total field goal attempts, the Sixers shot 53.3 percent in the opening stanza, nailing six of 11 3-point tries. Orlando made substantial inroads in the third period, erupting for 41 points. The Magic started the frame by sinking their first 11 shots, and subsequently trimmed the deficit to three points heading into the fourth.
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Rodriguez buried an impressive 31-foot triple, one of his two in the game, to put the Sixers ahead 94-84 with eight and a half minutes to go, but Orlando charged back again. Joel Embiid nailed a pair of late free throws to give the Sixers a 101-97 edge; however, his turnovers on the team’s final two possessions helped position the Magic to tie the tilt with 27 seconds left.
Hollis Thompson went four for four from 3-point range, and topped all Sixers with 22 points. The Sixers complete their first back-to-back set of the season Wednesday in Charlotte.
by Brian Seltzer
First appeared on NBA.com Global