If Monday’s road win over the Philadelphia 76ers was a lesson in the importance of consistently bringing defensive intensity, Wednesday’s 105-94 loss to Wells Fargo Center showed some nights just aren’t a team’s night.
The Magic (20-32) brought the necessary focus to compete with the 76ers (33-17) from tipoff, unlike Monday. They just didn’t make enough shots to beat the 76ers for the second consecutive game.
Some nights, it’s just that simple.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We did our job defensively. We just couldn’t find the basket.”
The Magic held the 76ers to 26 or fewer points in each of the final three quarters after Joel Embiid’s dominant first-quarter performance (16 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 8 of 8 on free throws) gave the 76ers a 37-23 lead going into the second.
Orlando chipped away at the lead every quarter.
The Magic brought their deficit down to 3 in the middle of the third and kept the game close the rest of the way. They trailed 82-81 after a Jalen Suggs 3-pointer with 11:23 remaining.
But every shot they needed to get over the hump late didn’t fall.
The Magic shot 5 of 18 from the field and 2 of 10 on 3s in the fourth quarter in which they only scored 16 points.
For the game, the Magic shot 37.5% from the field (33-of-88 shooting) and 15.4% on 3s (6-of-39).
Their 3-point percentage was their worst of the season when having at least 30 attempts. They also shot 22 of 29 (75.9%) on free throws after 4 of 9.
The Magic took advantage of the 76ers’ 18 turnovers, scoring 24 points, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the scoring woes.
Embiid led the 76ers with a 28-point, 11-rebound double-double while James Harden finished with a 26-point, 10-assist double-double to go with 9 rebounds.
The Magic held the 76ers to 43.6% shooting from the field (34 of 78), but Philadelphia’s 3-point shooting (14 of 35 — 40%) was too much for Orlando to overcome. Especially since their shots didn’t fall.
“We didn’t make shots,” Mosley said. “Joel played well. James played well. The other guys stepped in and made big, timely shots. For us, we didn’t make shots.”
Markelle Fultz had a team-high 18 points.
Jalen Suggs had a career-high 5 steals to go with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 26 minutes off the bench.
Starting big man Wendell Carter Jr. (9 points, 13 rebounds) was available after being listed as questionable entering the matchup because of strained right plantar fascia — the soft tissue under the foot.
Jonathan Isaac wasn’t available Wednesday night.
The Magic ruled out Isaac for the matchup a few hours before tipoff because of left knee injury management. He was originally added to the team’s injury report at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday before being ruled out a few hours later.
Isaac played his first NBA game in over 2½ years in the Jan. 23 win over the Boston Celtics, recording 10 points (4-for-7 shooting, 2 of 3 on 3-pointers), 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist in 10 minutes.
He’s played four games since returning, averaging 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 9 minutes.
Isaac also sat out Friday’s loss at Miami, the first night of a back-to-back.
“Coming back from so much time off, we’re going to continue to monitor that and take extra precautions to make sure he’s going to be OK going forward,” Mosley said. “Not trying to do too much and keep monitoring his situation.”
Isaac had 2 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 10 minutes in Monday’s win over the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
“Obviously sore,” Mosley responded when asked how Isaac felt after Monday’s game. “But we’re going to continue to look at that as we go on. It’s not going to be the last time it happens just because we always want to take extra precautions.”
Isaac has been on a tight playing time restriction of 8-10 minutes since returning.
He said he’s physically felt “good” while also readjusting to being back on the floor.
“I don’t want to say it’s a shock in terms of what playing in the NBA is like but it is a different game and process to actually getting to where you feel really good,” Isaac told the Orlando Sentinel ahead of Monday’s game. “I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, but I’m on my way.
“I’m still just continuing to get comfortable. Taking my time. There’s a part of me that’s trying to get it all back in one moment, in one possession. I just got to continue to just let it come to me. It’s tough in eight minutes, but I feel good.”
Isaac added that he’s adjusting to finding where to be more aggressive offensively in limited playing time while playing within the flow of the offense.
He’s taken 20 field goal attempts in 36 minutes.
“That’s what’s difficult,” Isaac said. “I’ve got to a better job of just trying to gel with the guys and try to figure out the best way to go about trying to impact the game and doing it in the confinements of our offense. It’s just something I’ve got to keep working at.”
He added that there have yet to be conversations about when his minutes restriction will increase.
“We’re implementing different things,” Isaac said Monday. “First it was all at home. Now, this is the first time playing 8 minutes after a travel day with the NBA. I’m sure I’ll do a couple of these and see where we’re at.”
Isaac is staying patient through it all.
“It’s OK,” Isaac responded when asked about the patient approach to his playing time. “I want to do this right. Trying to throw me out there for 15 minutes right away is tough. I’m OK with the process and keep it moving.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.
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