To no one’s surprise, the 76ers failed to rally vs. the Orlando Magic last night until it was too late in the fourth quarter.  This loss (99-95) doesn’t seriously damage the Sixers (24-28) current momentum.  But this was a frustrating loss, the kind that makes you grind your teeth and stand up with both hands behind your head. 

Orlando is an extremely streaky team and hadn’t won back-to-back contests since mid January.  This loss should really eat at Doug Collins and the players because with 1:57 left in the third quarter the Magic took their largest lead, a margin of just five points at 70-65.  Orlando put a 12-3 run together to end the third though, firmly gripping momentum for the rest of the game.  The run even allowed them to survive a furious comeback attempt spearheaded by Lou Williams who pumped in 18 fourth quarter points.

It was the first Sixers loss at home since the January 28th meltdown against the Grizzlies.   

Wednesday was the Sixers third meeting withOrlando and it’s crystal clear that we match up well against the Magic.  The problem has been in both losses that Orlando has the clutch factor, hitting big shots down the stretch with ease.  JJ Redick may haveonly had 13 points on the night but the fifth-year-pro made each of his buckets count.  His floater with just under 2:00 remaining popped the energy out of the building and gave the Magic an easy 90-83 advantage.

Who was ‘supposedly’ guarding Redick?  Jodie Meeks.  Don’t let his 17 points fool you.  Meeks was hideous defensively and missed seven three pointers on the night (2-for-9).  He did hit all five of his free throws and pulled down eight rebounds.  He did also steal all but three minutes of fourth quarter playing time from Jrue Holiday.

I understand Holiday has struggled as of late which continued tonight; three points in 29 minutes.  But some change needed to be made.  The Magic’s perimeter players were open throughout the fourthquarter last night, draining three consecutive triples in a row at one point.  Meeks and Lou Williams shouldn’t be on the floor together for vast amounts of time together as bothstruggle mightily on the defensive end.  And if we were somehow able to coax a decent fourth quarter from Jrue, the outcome could’ve been different.  

Meeks’ extended playing time wasn’t the only botch at the hands of Doug Collins.  Mo Speights didn’t even see the floor — apparently he’s in Dougie’s dog house — forcing an out of shape Tony Battie into 19 minutes of action (Most of it guarding Dwight Howard).  If we were in a playoff series against the Magic, I would pray to god that Battie never even sniff the floor.  19 minutes is bizarre. Battie was even in for six minutes in the fourth as Elton Brand watched wearily from the bench.

On the other hand Philly’s experiences in the fourth have been like that of a lottery team for most of the season.  Andre Iguodala was exceptional, scoring 21, dishing out eight assists and recording three steals.  For much of the game his decision making was unblemished, soaring one-handed lead passes to Elton Brand and Jodie Meeks with ease.  But then when I took a second look back at my notes I realized he had five turnovers and a threw up a completely idiotic 13-foot fade away with the Sixers down five points and two minutes to go in the game.  That just isn’t a decision most star wing players make in the League.  They get to the line or find a way to get the hole.

All though at time he had lapses, Dwight Howard ended up being too much for the 76ers, especially when Stan Van Gundy employed the muscle-monster to stranglehold Elton Brand during crunch time. Howard had 30 points, 17 boards but most importantly he stroked 14-of-19 free throws, his best percentage in the last 15 Orlando games.  The Sixers out-rebounded the Magic 45 to 40 (15-6 offensively) but Howard’s presence forced the Sixers in too many outside shot situations.

Everyone else for Orlando was held in check offensively.  No one tallied over 12 points but Ryan Anderson’s shooting touch caught my eye.  The Sixers could use a guy over 6’4” who could consistently tickle the twine from behind the arc.

The positive effects from back-to-back wins against the Hawks and then the Magic would probably havebeen the most noteworthy basketball this franchise has seen since the 2009 playoffs.  Three out of four wins against surefire playoff teams with Iguodala and Brand playing their best joint basketball together is just to much to ask for right now.

Tonight’s loss was to be expected.  We’ve had many deflating losses following such emotionally charged wins.  After beating the Bulls on January 7th, the Sixers dropped the ball in Detroit.  Later in January the 7-6 reeled off two straight victories at home over Milwaukee and Charlotte only to collapse late in Orlando.  These are the kinds of losses we’ve come to expect.

Still, I don’t foresee this team quiting on Collins.  In fact ESPN’s John Hollinger has Philadelphia ranked at number 10 in the entire League, so don’t harp on this loss too much.

Philadunkia Notes:

  • Spencer Hawes had seven rebounds in the first five minutes and played his role solidly in hacking Dwight Howard.
  • Lou Williams 18 fourth quarter points — on a flurry of three pointers — nearly forced overtime late in the game. Williams finished with a team high 23 and scored 18 of the Sixers final 24.  Although he was hot in the fourth, he continued his ball hog ways and missed several Sixers on cuts towards the basket.
  • Outside of Lou, the bench play was unusually quiet tonight.  Thad couldn’t find his groove (seven points) and ET logged just two points in 13 minutes.
  • Of course has the highlights of another Sixers L to the Magic.

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