);
Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic boost playoff hopes with crucial win over Ben Simmons-less Philadelphia 76ers

#Viucevic
(NBA Getty Images)

What a difference a week can make.

After riding a six-game win streak, which included wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers dropped one at the buzzer in Atlanta on Saturday and today they fell flat on the road against the Orlando Magic 119-98.

Granted the 76ers were without point guard Ben Simmons, who missed the game with a stomach virus, they struggled to get into an offensive rhythm, with turnovers and a poor shooting night from three the source of a lot of their troubles.

Former 76er Nikola Vucevic led the way with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Michael Carter-Williams added 15 points off the bench. Evan Fournier scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as the Magic (36-38) made it five-straight wins, moving to within a half-game of the eighth-placed Miami Heat, who they face tomorrow.

The 76ers were out of sorts early, turning the ball over eight times in the first half, which led to 10 Magic points, however Philly still led 60-57 at the half.

Then Evan Fournier happened.

The Magic shooting guard knocked down his first five shots of the quarter, scoring 12 of his team's first 16 points in the third quarter.

Carter-Williams got in on the act, scoring six points in the period, with this second effort off a missed three-point attempts exemplifying the Magic's extra effort, compared to a stagnant 76ers team, who seemed a step slow in their second-striaght road game.

They outscored the 76ers 32-17 in the third and in a stretch over the third and fourth quarters, the Magic went on a 42-11 run to blow the game wide open.

The 76ers couldn't buy a bucket in the second half, with their threes refusing to drop. They connected on just 6-of-23 attempts from deep for the game, with JJ Redick (1-of-7), Tobias Harris (0-of-2), Jimmy Butler (0-of-2) and Joel Embiid (1-of-3) all struggling from deep. Meanwhile, Orlando connected on 11-of-29 of their three-pointers.

Embiid led the 76ers with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Harris added 15 points, Butler 13 and Redick eight points.

Without Simmons in the driver's seat, Philly's offence lacked direction, while his 6-foot-10 frame was sorely missed on the defensive end.

He is expected to return for Thursday's game against the Brooklyn Nets, in a potential first-round playoff preview. The 76ers are now 47-27 on the season in the third seed, two games clear of the Indiana Pacers.

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