Sixers look to avoid letdown against Magic

NBA
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The Philadelphia 76ers made a statement by defeating the team with the NBA’s best record in a showcase setting.

The 76ers can’t afford a letdown Friday when they put their three-game winning streak on the line against the Orlando Magic in the opener of a four-game road trip.

“I think this team is designed for the playoffs,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said after his club’s 121-109 win over Milwaukee on Christmas Day. “I believe that the road that we have traveled so far has been a little bit erratic at times.

“Whether it’s the infrequency of our five players playing together, it’s still less than half the season we’ve had them. Whether it’s navigating through some zone, at times some lost leads. It’s like you’re under a microscope trying to move this team forward and trying to get it whole and improve it. But I think the landing spot is exciting.”

Joel Embiid recorded his 16th double-double in 18 games on Wednesday after collecting 31 points and 11 rebounds against the Bucks. The All-Star center did most of his damage against reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“A lot of people have kind of forgotten who I am. When I’m needed, I’m going to show up,” said the 25-year-old Embiid, who sat out a 112-97 loss in Orlando on Nov. 13 with a sore left knee.

Versatile Tobias Harris made five 3-pointers and Josh Richardson added four as Philadelphia made a franchise record-tying 21 3-pointers versus Milwaukee. Harris, however, misfired on all three attempts from beyond the arc in the previous meeting with the Magic.

While the 76ers have scored at least 120 points in three straight games for the first time since 1990, the Magic have reached that total on just one occasion over their last nine contests.

Orlando had dropped six of seven before posting a 103-95 victory over Chicago on Monday, highlighted by Terrence Ross sinking six 3-pointers en route to a season-high 26-point performance.

Ross’ scoring output was a welcome one after he shot just 9 of 28 from the floor — including 4 of 15 from 3-point range — over his last three games.

“It felt good to finally make some shots,” the 28-year-old said. “Any time somebody makes shots, it’s going to have an impact on the whole team. It just happened to be me (against the Bulls).”

Nikola Vucevic added 21 points to mark the third straight time that he has reached the 20-point plateau and 10th this season. The 29-year-old erupted for a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds in the first encounter with Philadelphia.

The Magic also benefited from an aggressive defense on Monday that blocked 13 shots, with Mo Bamba coming off the bench to record four of those while Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon added three apiece.

“I know I’m a defensive-first guy. My offense is evolving, but if I don’t play defense, then I’m not being true to myself,” the 22-year-old Isaac told Fox Sports Florida & Sun.

–Field Level Media

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