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Sixers fall to Magic to spoil Jimmy Butler’s debut

Jimmy Butler's Sixers debut didn't end as expected: The team fell apart in the final minutes and lost to the Orlando Magic.

Sixers'  Jimmy Butler drives past Orlando's Evan Fournier during the first half
Sixers' Jimmy Butler drives past Orlando's Evan Fournier during the first halfRead moreJOHN RAOUX / Associated Press

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic spoiled Jimmy Butler's 76ers debut.

The Sixers surrendered a 16-point fourth-quarter lead en route to losing, 111-106, Wednesday night at Amway Center.

The loss dropped the Sixers (9-7) to 2-7 on the road. Meanwhile, the Magic improved to 7-8.

But the focus on this game was on Butler. The Sixers acquired him and Justin Patton from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.

"I thought that our guys were up and down, just trying to figure each other out," coach Brett Brown said of integrating Butler into the team. "It's normal. But I think in general there are certainly some good things that came out of it.

"You are disappointed to lose with Jimmy's first game. But there are a lot of good things you can see happen."

The swingman showed glimpses of why he was the headliner of the trade. It was also obvious that it will take time to adjust to his new teammates. He basically deferred to his teammates on the court, while looking like a guy trying to fit in. Unfamiliar with the system, he consulted with the Sixers assistant coaches during breaks in the action. But he still managed to finish with 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with two assists in 32 minutes, 55 seconds.

"It was solid," he said of his performance. "Obviously, didn't win. Not the outcome that we wanted to have. But we got a lot more of these things. I think we will all be better, myself included.

"We got another one Friday."

Butler will make his Wells Fargo Center debut with the Sixers on Friday against the Utah Jazz. He, Joel Embiid, and JJ Redick would like to duplicate their scoring output while getting a win. Embiid had 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists for his first career triple-double. Redick finished with team-high 22 points while making 4 of 7 three-pointers.

Ben Simmons had nine points, six assists, and three rebounds.

However, Orlando center Nik  Vucevic finished with 30 points against his former team. Aaron Gordon added 17 and Terrence Ross had 15. Eight of his points came in the fourth quarter, as he made 2 of 3 three-pointers. None of Ross' points were bigger than his three-pointer that gave the Magic a 109-106 lead with 8.7 seconds left. Redick appeared to answer for the Sixers with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. However, Redick was out of bounds while catching a pass from Simmons on his way to attempting the shot.

Vucevic converted a pair of foul shots on the ensuing possession to put the Magic up, 111-106, with 5.3 ticks left.

The Magic got back into the game thanks to a 21-0 run to take a 97-92 advantage with 6:43 remaining. The Sixers missed all five of their shots and committed three turnovers during the run. Meanwhile, Orlando went 7-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line. The Magic did not commit a turnover during the run.

"We got to play defense," Simmons said of the Sixers' giving up leads. "We got to play 'D.' "

The teams went on to play through four ties and two lead changes before Ross' clutch three-pointer.

Early in the game, it was the Embiid and Butler show. The two All-Stars combined to score the Sixers' first 19 points — Embiid had 11, Butler scored eight.

Butler made his first three shots before missing his next two. His first basket came on a cutting layup with 2:08 into the game. Embiid followed that with his second and third three-pointers of the game before Butler scored his next basket, a dunk with 7:09 left in the quarter.

Then after making a pair of foul shots, he scored on a 16-foot pull-up jumper with 5:36 left in the quarter. He went to the bench 1:16 later.

"He's going to fit in," Simmons said. "I think just the way he plays, he sees the game. He runs the floor. He can score the ball. Defensively, he's a great defender.

"He can play the game."

It's no secret that Butler desperately wanted out of Minnesota. So for nearly two months, folks wondered and speculated where he would end up. Despite all the attention that brought,  Butler said his focus never faded. And that's a good thing for the Sixers squad with a goal of reaching the NBA Finals.

"I was always just focused on hoops," Butler said. "Not too many things go through my mind when I'm out there between these lines. All I want to do is compete and help my team win.

"Now, I've got to job to do."

They now have a scary starting lineup, with three of the league's Top 20 players in Butler, Embiid, and Simmons. It also boasts one of the league best three-pointer shooters in Redick. Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler is sort of like the three-and-D glue guy of the lineup.

The Sixers had a team dinner to welcome Butler and Patton to the squad Tuesday night. In addition to meeting his teammates, Butler still must learn the team's terminology and plays.  That's why he said he felt "hella confused by some plays" during Wednesday's shootaround at Freedom High School.

"But other than that, basketball is basketball," he said.

As a way to help them, the Sixers kept things simple during the shootaround. They focused on going over possible close-game scenarios.

"In that environment, he picks things up quickly," Brown said. "It's obvious that he's been doing this for a long time."