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Orlando Magic roll past Philadelphia 76ers

By Tim Povtak, The Sports Xchange

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon believes he has just scratched the surface of his offensive game.

Gordon, the second-year forward from Arizona, scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds Sunday in the Magic's 130-116 pasting of the lowly Philadelphia 76ers at the Amway Center.

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Teammates Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo each scored 28 points, but it was Gordon who punctuated the win with an alley-opp dunk in the final minute that silenced Philadelphia's final charge.

Gordon, who moved into the starting lineup a month ago, has scored in double figures in each of his last five games. He has collected at least seven rebounds in all five.

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"I have the tools to be a 20-point-per-game scorer in this league," Gordon said. "We're getting better as a team. And I'm getting better as a player. The more I play, the more I'm soaking it all in."

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Gordon, who was the runnerup in the NBA's All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest, hit both his 3-point attempts and made all six of his free throws Sunday. He also blocked two shots.

After missing almost half of last season with a broken foot and this season's training camp with a broken jaw, he is rounding into the player the Magic had hoped for when he was selected No. 4 in the 2014 Draft.

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"You can see he's getting better," Magic coach Scott Skiles said. "He's not a mistake player anymore. He stays real solid out there. He's put in a lot of time working on his game, and it shows."

The Magic (26-32) led from start to finish in snapping a two-game losing streak Sunday. The Sixers (8-51) lost their eighth consecutive game. After trailing by as many as 23 points early in the fourth quarter, they closed the gap to eight points with 1:47 remaining. It was as close as they would come.

Magic rookie guard Mario Hezonja, in his first career start, had 13 points and made two of his three 3-point attempts. Reserve center Jason Smith added 12 points. Point guard Elfrid Payton had 11 points, including eight in the final three minutes, and 10 assists. Backup forward Ersan Ilyasova contributed 10 points.

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Center Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 26 points. Reserve guard Isaiah Canaan had 18 points. Guard Ish Smith had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Reserve forwards Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes had 13 and 12 points, respectively, and forward Nerlens Noel scored 10. Noel did not play in the second half after struggling defensively.

The Sixers were especially poor defensively in the first half when the Magic scored 77 points.

"We didn't do our job in the first half, and that's not going to work. It's unacceptable," said Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. "That's hard to swallow. We need to define who we are."

The Sixers closed the third period with an 18-5 run, cutting the deficit to 15 points. Smith had 12 points and Okafor 11 in the third to lead the rally. The Magic led by as many as 29 points, their largest advantage of the game, midway in the third.

"We just didn't have enough fight in the first half," Grant said. "No team should be able to score 77 points in a half. Everyone was fed up with what was going on. We picked it up in the second, but it was too little, too late."

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Vucevic left the game early in the third quarter when he was hit in the face with an elbow on a dunk by Grant. He returned to start the fourth.

The Magic led 77-51 at intermission, their highest scoring half of the season. They were one point shy of the franchise record for points in a first half.

Oladipo had 19 points in 20 first-half minutes. Vucevic and Gordon each had 18 points in the first two quarters. Okafor had 12 first-half points for the Sixers.

The Magic scored the game's first eight points, and they had 40 in the first quarter. The Sixers shot well early but they didn't shoot enough because they committed 12 turnovers in the first half that became 21 points for the Magic.

For the game, Philadelphia shot 53.2 percent from the floor but committed 17 turnovers. Orlando shot 57 percent and gave the ball away 12 times.

NOTES: Magic rookie G Mario Hezonja made his first career start Sunday night, and he wasted no time getting into the mix. Hezonja took the opening tip, drove and dunked just six seconds into the game. He started in place of G Evan Fournier, who missed a game for the first time this season. ... Fournier had a sore right wrist, an injury first sustained a week ago. He previously was the only Magic player to have played in every game this season. Fournier scored 20 or more points in three of the previous four games. ... The Sixers lost by an average of 15.1 points in their previous four games. ... Philadelphia returns to action Monday in Washington against the Wizards, who beat them Friday by nine points. ... Orlando plays the Mavericks on Dallas on Tuesday.

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