PHILADELPHIA – Andre Iguodala had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead the surprising Philadelphia 76ers to their third straight win, 74-69 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
The Sixers raced to their best start in nearly a decade by taking advantage of a soft schedule for the first third of the season, but it gets tough from here. Orlando was the first opponent in a long run of games against winning teams that includes home games this week against Chicago and Miami.
Led by Iguodala’s burst in the third quarter, the Sixers (15-6) outlasted the stumbling Magic and won despite posting their lowest point total of the season. Dwight Howard’s 17 points and 11 rebounds weren’t enough in Orlando’s fourth straight loss.
Howard wants out of Orlando and criticized his teammates Friday for not playing hard enough in a loss to New Orleans. He missed eight of 13 free throws overall against Philadelphia and the Magic missed 14 of 17 shots from the floor in the third. Ryan Anderson had 14 points and 20 rebounds.
The Magic missed nine straight shots during a 6-minute stretch in the third that allowed the Sixers to build a double-digit lead. Jodie Meeks hit a 3-pointer for a 53-40 lead and the 76ers withstood three late threes by Orlando that trimmed the final margin.
The Magic scored only nine points in the third quarter. Howard had all three baskets.
With 6 minutes left in the game, the Magic had yet to reach 50 points.
Long the fourth pro team in Philadelphia, the improved Sixers are winning back fans one victory at a time. They improved to 11-2 at home in front one of their largest crowds of the season (16,299). Heading into a timeout in the third, the Atlantic Division leaders walked off toward the huddle to a standing ovation.
Coming off a triple-double against Detroit on Saturday, Iguodala fell four assists shy of a repeat effort. The rest of the Sixers struggled to score, but Philadelphia didn’t need to do much against an Orlando team that has completely unravelled.
Sixers first year CEO Adam Aron conducted as he mingled with fans and the team’s retro theme song was blasted for the enthusiastic crowd. Aron and the new ownership group have overhauled the game-night atmosphere, but the biggest change has come on the court.
They’ll need more than a catchy tune to get through the next two weeks. After Chicago and Miami, the Sixers play Saturday at Atlanta. They return home next week for games against the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
Fans yelled “On the list!” at Howard, a reference to placing the Sixers on his short list of teams where he’d like to be traded.
Before the game, Howard walked around the locker room with a brick in each hand, playfully swinging them around and yelling, “I’m going to knock somebody in the head!”
He shot more bricks from the free throw line, not a total surprise considering he shoots 46 per cent from the line.
Evan Turner scored 12 points for the Sixers and Thaddeus Young had 10.
Notes: Magic point guard Jameer Nelson did not travel with the team, sidelined with concussion-like symptoms after taking an inadvertent blow to the head and jaw in Orlando’s loss at New Orleans on Friday. Coach Stan Van Gundy said Nelson could be sidelined another week. … The 76ers played again without starting centre Spencer Hawes (left Achilles strain) and his backup, rookie Nik Vucevic (left quad strain). … Iguodala moved into fourth place on the team’s career steals list, passing Charles Barkley. … Orlando’s nine points in the third was the low against Philly for a quarter.