ORLANDO — The 76ers are figuring it out as they go.
On Tuesday, they battled through poor shooting and defensive shortcomings. Yet, they stuck it out and found a way to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 100-93.
“We have to figure out things on both ends of the floor where we can get better,” Seth Curry said. “It’s kind of like an extended training camp where we are trying to figure out who we are as a team, and learn each other out of the floor. But you have to win games at the same time.
And they’ve done that for the most part.
While they’ve looked a little discombobulated, the Sixers are off to a 3-1 start. The lone loss was Sunday’s 24-point road setback to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a night Joel Embiid was sidelined with back tightness. Next up is one of the league’s surprising teams in the Orlando Magic on Thursday night at the Amway Center.
At 4-0, the Magic are one of the league’s two remaining undefeated teams heading into Wednesday night’s games (Atlanta is the other).
Former Sixer Markelle Fultz is having the best start of his career, averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.0 steal through four games. His three-pointer (3 for 10) is still a work in progress. However, he appears more comfortable shooting the ball.
That’s a major accomplishment for the guy the Sixers traded up two spots to select with the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. In Philadelphia, he was often criticized for his shooting woes and his extended time away from the team. The Maryland native was regarded as one of biggest draft busts in NBA history.
In December 2018, his agent, Raymond Brothers, announced that Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which affected his shooting shoulder and causing erratic shooting. Brothers said his client would remain sidelined at least three to six weeks. He didn’t play after that, however, with his last game being Nov. 19, 2018.
The Sixers traded Fultz to the Magic on Feb. 7, 2019. He played in just 33 games, all with the Sixers, in his first two NBA seasons. Happy with his development in Orlando, the Magic signed him to a three-year, $50 million extension on Dec. 21.
Nik Vucevic, another former Sixer, is the best player on the team. The center is averaging 20 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals.
With Vucevic leading the way, the Magic have been getting the best of the Sixers. Orlando has won 17 of the last 26 regular-season meetings with Philly. The Magic have also won 23 of the last 30 meetings in Orlando.
But these are the new-look Sixers trying to create their own identity and gel as a unit.
On Tuesday, the Sixers shot 32 for 84, including 8-of-31 on three-pointers. Defensively, they surrendered a lot of wide-open three-pointers. Taking advantage, the Raptors made 17-of-45 threes.
Yet, the Sixers closed out the game with a 22-8 run for a seven-point victory.
“The next game, we have to figure out how we sustain better play for 48 minutes,” Curry said. “Our goal is to get better every night we are on the floor. It‘s not going to be a perfect product early on this season with the amount of practice that we had,and we play games and try to win at the same time.”
This trip is a homecoming for Doc Rivers and Dwight Howard.
Rivers began his coaching career with the Magic during the 1999-2000 season and coached there until Nov. 17, 2003. Meanwhile, the Magic selected Howard as the first overall pick of the 2004 draft. He spent his first eight seasons in Orlando.