The Sixers (45-35) hosted the Orlando Magic (46-34) on Friday. Orlando wanted to lock the Sixers in the Play-In tournament. Philadelphia wanted to take a huge step towards climbing out of the Play-In tournament. Joel Embiid went for 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists to bring the Sixers closer to the 6-seed with a 125-113 victory.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Magic had all players available.

Jamahl Mosley started Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr.

The Sixers were without the services of Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

KJ Martin has a left great toe contusion and was not available.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.


- We could fill this space with a thousand words on how Embiid dominated this game, but it's par for the course. But, of all the facets of Embiid's game that have plagued him in the postseason, the one that might connect all the dots and unlock a steadier baseline for him in the playoffs is the passing. It took him a few games to see the floor the way he was prior to the knee injury, but Embiid has settled in as a passer this week.

He started accumulating the dimes in the win over the Detroit Pistons. But, hard to tell what's real and what's picking on a team that has been horrendous all season and might be totally checked out as things wrap up this week. You can't fake it against the Magic, who are third in the league in halfcourt defense and second in overall defense, per Cleaning The Glass. And his vision withstood the test.

Embiid will always pick up his share of cheapies by virtue of DHOs. Not just in his partnership with Maxey, but in working that action with other teammates. Thus, it's far more about what the eye test says than what the assist column says. The eye test was very supportive.

I actually thought he didn't read the court as well when initiating high in the middle of the floor. Of course, the irony is that he's flourished in recent years because he's learned to dominate the game from the middle of the court. I thought he was sensational when attacking from the sides on Friday.

As Embiid has grown his passing skillset this season, and as Nurse has demanded more movement on offense, the other four guys on the floor with the big fella have made cutting more of a priority. But, you naturally want to cut more consistently and purposefully when you trust that the guy quarterbacking the offense is going to reward you for doing so.

Embiid made sure his teammates knew he could see them before the first timeout of the game. Harris entered the ball to Embiid in the post and promptly cut down the slot for a dunk courtesy of the big fella. A short while later, Embiid roped the ball through a crowd to find Oubre for a three in the weak-side corner.

It wasn't the flashiest display of passing, but that doesn't matter. What matters is acting upon open teammates organically and showing that you understand what's going on around you. It's not about being the final passer, either. It's about setting the play into motion. Embiid did that all night.

It wasn't as simple as finding the open man when the extra pressure came. Embiid actively sought the pressure in hopes of creating a domino effect. He could be seen slowing down his pace of play in single coverage from time to time, hoping to goad the Magic into sending a helper his way. If he had the space to go one-on-one, Embiid occasionally floated in the direction of another defender ever so slightly in hopes of pulling a helper toward him as if he were a magnet.

When Embiid put the ball on the floor, you could see his brain at work. He tried to make himself aware of where the Magic were, taking a quick count of the guys in front of him and deducing how many foes were out of his line of sight.

- The Sixers kept the Magic at an arm's length all night long. But, with Embiid recharging for a large chunk of the fourth quarter, Maxey made sure that there was no momentum for Orlando to seize. He hadn't quite taken ahold of the game until closing time, but his imprint was massive in the minutes that mattered most.

He attacked the hoop straight on, no fear of bigger defenders or contact. Maxey refused to pick up his dribble until he had milked the drive for every inch of the paint he could get, avoiding outstretched arms and kissing the ball off the glass in small windows. And when the drive wasn't there or a slow-footed defender sagged to avoid getting blown by, he took what was available - the step-back jumper. He laced a triple from the right wing and a pull-back midranger on the left side as part of an avalanche to keep the Magic at bay.

What we learn about Maxey as a primary perimeter option over the course of a seven-game playoff series is perhaps as important as Embiid's health is. But, as the Sixers head into the offseason with enough cap space to welcome a new star to the core, having data on whether they can believe in Maxey's stardom translating to the postseason can fundamentally change their path forward. We don't have an answer to that question yet. But, his takeover in the fourth quarter was yet another example of Maxey rising to the occasion against an elite defense.

- Harris' defense against Banchero was outstanding. His hands were excellent, his contests were disciplined, and he gave just enough body to bother the Magic star. He even applied pressure when Banchero brought the ball up, slowing him down and tiring him into forced jumpers. This game could've played out differently if Banchero ever got comfortable.


- Embiid left the game late in the second quarter after planting on that left leg. He immediately started to limp and couldn't play through it, heading straight to the locker room after the Sixers called a timeout to get him off the court. Fortunately, he did return - and played fine. But, the scare obviously took the life out of the building.

It's anyone's guess as to what actually happened in his knee on the play. It could've been a real tweak; it could've been him overreacting a bit after feeling something that wouldn't go away quickly. After the game, Nurse said that there was neither swelling nor damage when the knee was evaluated before the third quarter. The Sixers' medical staff gave the green light, and Embiid wanted to give it a go. All was fine. They will monitor it on Saturday.

Nevertheless, this is what's in store for the remainder of the season. Every time Embiid reaches for the left leg, every time he jumps off one foot, every time he plants, there's going to be a gasp. Every time he leaves the floor with a limp, there will be sweat and abnormal heart rates. It is what it is, and that's unsettling.

- As good as Harris' defense was, he didn't impact the game on offense enough for me to overlook his rebounding. He got caught watching the ball on a number of shots, allowing the Magic to corral some of their own misses and keep possessions going. On a night when Embiid briefly departed favoring that left knee, every offensive rebound by the opposition hurts. It makes the big guy shift, pivot, and jump just a little more each time. The goal is to deliver him to the playoffs with as little wear and tear as possible.

The Sixers (46-35) will host the Brooklyn Nets (32-49) on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the regular-season finale on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Check Out Greater Atlantic City, NJ Area Athletes Who Played Games In NFL

Many people are not aware of the number of athletes from the Greater Atlantic City Region who have played in the National Football League. Football players who played at high schools in Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Ocean Counties have a strong representation in the NFL over the last few decades.

One of the most difficult accomplishments in sports is to make a Professional Sports Roster and earn the opportunity to play in a game at the highest level of the sport. Check out some of the great South Jersey Athletes who have played in games in the NFL:

Gallery Credit: Joshua Hennig/Townsquare Media

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