The Orlando Magic needed a victory on Tuesday night. Fortunately, the opponent was the lowly Philadelphia 76ers and the Magic dispatched Philadelphia 124-115 at the Wells Fargo Center.
After losing at home to Indiana on Sunday, the Magic knew that another loss would put them in a bad spot with the NBA’s best team up next on the schedule. If Orlando held any reasonable playoff expectations, this game could not get away.
“I challenged them right before shoot-around today and talked to the guys about how many (playoff) games they’ve played in their career and we said this is a must win,” Magic Coach Scott Skiles said earlier in the day. “If we want to talk about the playoffs and stuff, this is a must win.”
After a competitive first three quarters, the Magic finally took control in the final period. Orlando stretched a 33-31 first quarter lead into a 60-51 advantage with 2:38 remaining in the first half. Both teams were shooting well and the Magic took a 67-62 lead into the locker room at half time.
Neither team was able to break away in the third quarter. The Sixers actually held an 87-82 lead halfway through the third quarter. Orlando closed the quarter on a 15-6 run and led 97-93 heading into the fourth quarter.
Orlando opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 108-95 lead. The lead remained in double digits until a late three-pointer by Philadelphia’s Nik Stauskas.
If Skiles had anything to complain about, it might be allowing Philadelphia to shoot 54 percent for the game. The Sixers also connected on 47 percent, nine for 21, of their three-point shots.
The Magic shot 48 percent, including 50 percent of their three-point shots (7-14) Orlando outrebounded Philadelphia 43-36.
Nikola Vucevic had a huge game for Orlando, pouring in 35 points. Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier had 22 and 21 points, respectively, while Aaron Gordon recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“There is pressure in the job we do,” said Vucevic. “It’s a game, but we have to win and compete every night. (Skiles) did tell us it’s a must-win game. I think we responded well.”
Philadelphia was led by Ish Smith with 22 points. Nerlens Noel added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Orlando improved to 25-30 on the season. Philadelphia dropped to 8-48.
The defending champion Golden State Warriors (50-5) come to the Amway Center on Thursday.