Instant Replay: Magic 98, Sixers 84

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Instant Replay: Magic 98, Sixers 84

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The Orlando Magic had won just three times in their last 31 games coming into Tuesday night’s tilt against the Sixers. They had dropped 10 straight road games and were a dismal 15-41 overall for the season.

The Sixers were back at the Wells Fargo Center trying to snap a five-game losing streak.

Orlando is a young team that just isn’t good enough and yet was absolutely better than the Sixers on this night.

The Sixers did not defend and could not make shots in a 98-84 defeat. They are now 22-33 on the season and dropped a season-high six straight games.

Turning point
The Magic started the third quarter on an 11-0 run and shot 6 of 7 from the floor. They then started the fourth quarter on a 13-3 run. They led by 17 points with 9:18 to play.

This happened two days after the Sixers allowed the Knicks to post a 17-2 run to start the second quarter.

Follow the leader
Aaron Afflalo led the Magic with 16 points. Andrew Nicholson scored 13 points, and the Magic shot 54 percent from the floor as a team.

Newly-acquired guard Tobias Harris came off the Magic bench and also scored 16 points.

Damien Wilkins and Jeremy Pargo led the Sixers in scoring with 14 points each. Dorell Wright added 11 points and Evan Turner scored 10 points, six of which came at the foul line. Turner attempted a career-high 10 free throws.

Jrue Holiday handed out 10 assists to go with nine points.

Stat-egic
All five Magic starters scored in double figures. Meanwhile, Turner was the only Sixer starter to reach double digits with his 10 points. The Sixers’ other four starters combined for 26 points.

Take a bow
Nik Vucevic and Maurice Harkless had their NBA beginnings with the Sixers. Vucevic was selected 16th overall in the 2011 draft and Harkless was taken 15th overall last summer. Both players became expendable in the summer when the Sixers made the trade for Andrew Bynum.

Tuesday night, Vucevic led all rebounders with 19. He averages 11.4 boards per game for the season, fourth highest in the league. He also scored 12 points for his 32nd double-double of the season. By comparison, the Sixers' Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen combined for only three rebounds.

Harkless was 3 of 4 from the floor for 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.

What’s next?
The Sixers now travel to Chicago for a nationally-televised game against the Bulls on Thursday.

The Bulls are still without Derrick Rose, who has been sidelined with a knee injury that took place in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring against the Sixers.

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid didn’t earn enough overall votes to be named an All-Star starter, but he has no disappointment about the outpour of fan appreciation he received during the campaign.

“It shows that the fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad,” Embiid said after shootaround on Friday. “The fans are going stick up for who they love, and I love that.”

Embiid finished third among frontcourt players in fan votes behind only LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which counted for 50 percent of the votes this season. He made a late push after trailing Kevin Love for third place in the second return of votes last week.

“They’re behind me and they want me to succeed,” Embiid said. “That’s what I took from it.”

Embiid ranked fifth in media votes (25 percent), but there was a drop-off in the player votes (25 percent). Embiid was eighth in player voting, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony and Love.

Embiid is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He is under a 28-minute restriction this season and sits out one matchup of each back-to-back series. Veteran Gerald Henderson believes Embiid’s lack of games was a factor the player votes.

“I feel like since all the players vote, it’s probably important for you to play consistent and let all the players see night to night how good you are,” Henderson said. “I think that’s the difference. You’ll see Joel’s numbers are better than a lot of guys, but because some guys have been doing it year after year consistently and guys have seen how good they are, it helps them. I think if Joel continues to play like he’s been playing, he’ll earn everybody’s respect.” 

Embiid saw the competitiveness of the frontcourt race as a sign the league should revert back to the previous voting format which included centers. He has been advocating for that the entire season as he’s faced high-caliber players on the court.

“There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” Embiid said. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the All-Star ballot.”

Part of Embiid’s All-Star push centered around his opportunity to land a date with an unnamed celebrity if named a starter. So what happens now if he gets in as a reserve next week from the coach’s votes?

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure that out.”

In spite of battling illness, Embiid plans to play Friday in front of the home crowd that was behind him during the voting process.

"I feel pretty sick still but I’ll be fine," he said. "I've been coughing a lot, sneezing, headaches, sinuses, can’t really breathe. But I'm fine."

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.