In this season’s condensed 72-game NBA schedule, with few off-days, teams can use blowout wins for a variety of reasons, and the Sixers benefited from their first in Thursday’s 116-92 victory in Orlando.
This game was not as close as the final score indicated. The Sixers led by as many as 38 points late in the third quarter. The starters didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
The schedule is brutal this season in terms of days off. The NBA has released only the first half of the schedule. The Sixers will play their first 37 games by March 3.
Against Orlando, every Sixer played fewer than 27 minutes, and 14 saw action.
“It’s nice whenever you can get one of those,” coach Doc Rivers said of the blowout. “That is old-school load management. That is how we load-managed in our day. Our coach would tell us, ‘You get a big lead, you can sit down.’ ”
Rivers played 13 seasons in the NBA, with his final season in 1995-96.
What led to the blowout was the Sixers’ three-point shooting. They led, 75-40, at halftime, having shot 10-for-17 on three-pointers (58.8%).
That included the first three-pointer of the season from Ben Simmons and only the third of his career. He is 3-for-25 lifetime.
“It helps, man, when they go in,” Rivers said about his team’s three-point accuracy. “It’s funny -- we have had those shots in most of the games and haven’t made them.”
The Sixers ended the game shooting 15-for-33 (45.5%) from beyond the arc, but the main damage was done in the first half.
For the game, eight players hit a three, including reserve center Dwight Howard, now in his 17th season. It was just the 10th career three-pointer for Howard, who was 3-for-5 last season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was one of those nights when the three-pointer was a major weapon.
“We have good shooters out there, and even when we are missing shots, you should get respect where you have to be guarded out there,” said Seth Curry, who was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Curry noted that when a team is shooting so well from beyond the arc, it opens up the court for other opportunities.
“You make those shots, and it gives everybody confidence where we can work right out there at the line, I can drive the ball. Ben can drive the ball. Joel [Embiid] can get more one-on-one coverage, and Tobias [Harris] can get more one-on-one coverage,” Curry said. “So we are going to have nights when we shoot the ball the way we did, and it’s going to be really good.”
And it’s good to get a few minutes off.
This was the first blowout win for the Sixers (4-1). They did beat the New York Knicks last Saturday, 109-89, but the Sixers led by just 60-55 at halftime. The Sixers’ lone loss, 118-94, at Cleveland on Sunday, was also one in which the minutes were kept down. But teams obviously cherish the time off only in a win.
What made Thursday’s decisive win more impressive was that Orlando (4-1) had been playing good basketball. The Magic were the NBA’s last unbeaten team.
The Sixers will resume play Saturday at home against the Charlotte Hornets. The teams will also meet Monday in Philadelphia.