ORLANDO - Forget whatever you thought you knew about the 76ers.

That they can't shoot, don't defend, and aren't worth the price of admission.

Because right now the Sixers are reinventing themselves. They're morphing into a playoff basketball team.

On Saturday night inside the Amway Center, the Sixers defeated the shorthanded Orlando Magic, 97-89.

It took a heck of a lot of defense and a stroke of good timing.

Only hours before the game's tip, Orlando's front office executed two separate trades, sending four key players - two of them starters - to two different teams.

Any opponent could have been in Orlando on Saturday night. It turned out to be the Sixers.

The moves left the Magic with only eight active players, and the Sixers spent 48 minutes defending every single one of them.

Led by Lou Williams' 24 points, the Sixers improved to 11-16. The Magic, who got 26 points and 20 rebounds from Dwight Howard, dropped to 16-10.

"Any time a team trades guys and they're down a few men, you always want to take advantage," said Sixers forward Thaddeus Young. "Those guys are a great team even without those guys. When we looked at their lineup, we were like, 'They've still got a good team.' "

In place of traded forward Rashard Lewis and guard Vince Carter, the Magic started Quentin Richardson and J.J. Redick.

"When you lose a teammate, there is emotion that goes with that. . . ." said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "It was a big opportunity for us."

The Sixers led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter. On jumpers by Marreese Speights, buckets by Elton Brand, and a put-back slam by Young, they continually quieted the sellout crowd of 18,846.

Defense, as it has lately, kept the Sixers in the game when the offense was about as static as a painting. Behind Williams' 12 first-half points and aggressive drives, the Sixers were able to stay on pace with the Magic until their performance on offense - 57 points in the second half on 55.9 percent shooting - finally matched their efforts on defense.

"As a team, we've had individual guys that could play pretty good defense," Brand said of previous seasons. "But as a team, I think this is the best we've played as a unit."

Orlando finished the game shooting 41.4 percent from the floor and 20 percent (3 for 15) from beyond the arc.

"We played our butts off," Young said.

"Now we have a nice day off in Chicago, a little team dinner, a nice steak, a little grape juice kind of thing," said Collins, whose team plays the Bulls on Tuesday. "So we're going to have some fun."