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Sixers claim split with Magic, win 105-94

It wasn't pretty, but Joel Embiid, James Harden, and a better defensive effort in the second half lift Sixers to 105-94 win over Orlando.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers bounced back from Monday's streak-breaking loss to the Orlando Magic with a 105-94 win in Wednesday night's rematch, with a well-rounded game from Joel Embiid, a switch to their defensive scheme and a little bit of shooting variance luck driving the Sixers' victory.

The game was far from perfect for the home team. Turnover problems persisted for the second game in a row, a combination of Orlando's size and length on defense as well as some carelessness on the Sixers' part. Outside of Joel Embiid and James Harden, few Sixers looked comfortable on offense, and that was especially true of De'Anthony Melton (1-7) and Tyrese Maxey (2-11). And while the Sixers certainly turned in a better defensive showing than they did on Monday night, any time the opponent gets 38 3-point attempts and makes only six of them, you got a little bit lucky as well.

Still, Embiid was dominant early on, then used the attention he received in the second half to create shots for his teammates, James Harden was dynamic as both a scorer and a playmaker the Sixers made a key second-half adjustment, and they picked up a crucial win as they fight for positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

On last night's win

Box score

The key takeaway

Orlando is, overall, a bad offensive group, averaging just 94.1 points per 100 plays in the half-court, the fifth worst half-court offense in the league, per CleaningTheGlass. That's gotten a tiny bit better here of late, averaging 96.2 points per 100 in the half-court over the last 25 games, but the Steve Nash led Phoenix Suns these are not.

The Magic can be dangerous in two ways. First, Markelle Fultz is just really, really fast with the ball in his hands, and when he forces rotations because of his speed he can use his court vision to kick it out to open shooters. It's part of the reason that many of us (myself included) considered him to be the top prospect in his draft class, before ... well, you know.

Beyond that, the Magic like to run a lot of big-big pick-and-rolls, using their two big, ball-handling forwards Franz Wagner (6'9") and Paolo Banchero (6'10") to gain an advantage.

The Sixers spent most of the second half switching those big-big pick-and-rolls, and did so fairly effectively. Without the benefit of the Sixers' big playing in a drop, Orlando's forward tandem had a difficult time creating in one-on-one situations, with both Embiid and even Montrezl Harrell holding up pretty well when isolated against.

The Sixers weren't perfect, with one play between Harrell and Thybulle sticking out. You can see Harrell calling out the switch, but Thybulle ran through the sign.

But the two got on the same page a few possessions later, and more often than not the Sixers executed down the stretch.

Again, every scheme is going to look better when the other team shoots 6-38 from 3, and a bunch of them were quality looks, including from Orlando's two big forwards. But when their perimeter shots weren't falling the Sixers did a good job of preventing Wagner and Banchero from getting anywhere off the dribble in the half-court, which was key.

Turning point

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