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Nikola Vucevic leads Orlando Magic over Philadelphia 76ers

By Gordie Jones, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 24, 2016 at 12:36 AM

PHILADELPHIA -- Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic has never been one to seek revenge against the Philadelphia 76ers, his former team.

He continues to be productive against them, however.

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Vucevic scored a season-high 35 points and guard Victor Oladipo added 22 as the Magic beat the 76ers 124-115 on Tuesday night.

Vucevic, who spent his rookie season in Philadelphia (2011-12) before going to Orlando in a four-team trade, made 13 of 21 shots from the floor and fell two points short of his career high. He also collected nine rebounds and four assists for the Magic, who won for the fourth time in sixth games. However, the Magic is just 6-17 since starting the season 19-13.

Vucevic is averaging 19.3 points and 13.8 rebounds in 11 career games against the 76ers. The scoring average is his second-best against any team, and on Tuesday he fell one rebound short of his fifth straight double-double against Philadelphia.

He said vengeance has not been a factor in his games against his former team, however.

"I was over that even the first game I ever played here," he said. "It's just the business part of what we do. I don't have any hard feelings. It was a great time for me here. I always like to come back here and play well because this is where I had my first game and a lot of people I know come to the game, but I don't play harder just because they traded me."

Guard/forward Evan Fournier contributed 21 points for Orlando, which outscored Philadelphia 42-28 over the game's last 17:26. The Magic, averaging 99.7 points a game when the night began (22nd in the league), had a season-high point total for a regulation game.

Guard Ish Smith had 22 points for Philadelphia, which fell to 8-48 with its fifth straight loss. Center Jahlil Okafor contributed 17 points, and center/forward Nerlens Noel chipped in 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The 76ers' defensive struggles continued. They allowed over 120 points for the third straight game, the first time that has happened all season.

"The energy's not where we need it to be," coach Brett Brown said. "That starting group's got to get going, really. ... I think our group that we're bringing off the bench, their spirit and their energy is for the most part where we want it to be, but we need better defense from that starting group."

Magic coach Scott Skiles called his own team's defensive effort "pretty bad the whole night." Orlando allowed the 76ers, the NBA's lowest-scoring team at 95.6 points a game, to shoot 54.4 percent from the floor and make 10 of 21 3-point attempts.

"Golden State will score 300 on us if we play like that," Skiles said, referring to Thursday night's meeting with the defending NBA champion.

Orlando led 97-93 after three quarters, and opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 burst, including six points by backup center Jason Smith, to go up 108-95 with 8:36 to play. The 76ers were never closer than eight the rest of the way.

The Magic took a 25-16 lead early in the game behind Vucevic's 12 points, but some strong play by the Philadelphia bench allowed the 76ers to overtake Orlando in the second quarter. A dunk by Noel gave them a 44-43 lead with 8:08 left in the half, but Fournier answered with a 3-pointer for the Magic, which carried a 67-62 advantage into the break.

Vucevic scored 19 points to top Orlando in the first half, while forward Robert Covington had 10 to front Philadelphia.

Early in the third quarter Orlando was still up by five, 75-70, when the 76ers went on a 13-2 run that featured nine points by Smith. Again the Magic answered, scoring 13 of 15 points in one stretch, six of those by Vucevic, to go up 95-89.

The Magic was up 97-93 at the end of the period.

NOTES: Orlando attempted a whopping 41 free throws, making 35, while Philadelphia went 19-for-26 at the foul line. ... 76ers coach Brett Brown denied a Philly.com report that the team offered G Ish Smith, G Nik Stauskas, a player with an expiring contract and a 2016 first-round pick to Atlanta for G Dennis Schroder. Stauskas said he only heard a rumor of the deal when Brown "came into the locker room laughing." ... The Magic's next game is Thursday at home against Golden State, which on Monday became the fastest team in NBA history to 50 victories, reaching that milestone in its 55th game. "Every time I watch them, I feel like I'm watching the best team I've ever seen play," Orlando coach Scott Skiles said. ... 76ers G T.J. McConnell sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. Brown said McConnell is doubtful for Wednesday's game in Detroit.

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