The Philadelphia 76ers (46-35) and Orlando Magic (46-35) met at the Wells Fargo Center for a matchup that wielded immense influence over the Eastern Conference standings. The Sixers came out of the other side victorious by a final score of 125-113.

Let’s break down the 76ers and Magic's huge showdown.

76ers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 32 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 10-23 FG shooting

In his latest game that he hopes will get him back into playing shape, Embiid looked great. He was tremendous on defense and was a playmaking/scoring force on offense, mostly in the first half. While he may not have racked up a ton of blocks, he proved to be incredibly hard to score on.

A knee injury scare diminished his spryness but he still played great basketball.

Tyrese Maxey: 28 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 10-19 FG shooting

Maxey found a hot shooting rhythm from deep early on and didn’t keep it going as the game went on. He never got going from inside the arc all that well with the Magic's blitzing forcing him too far out. Still, when the Sixers needed him in the fourth quarter, he once again rose to the occasion.

Magic player notes:

Paolo Banchero: 22 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 7-24 FG shooting

Banchero tried repeatedly to use his size to get to his spots, rise up and fire. It wasn’t a recipe for scoring success but his playmaking and rebounding provided some value.

Game recap:

The 76ers and Magic know perfectly well that they are both in danger of having to secure a playoff berth in the play-in, where Philly is currently situated and where Orlando could easily fall into. This game was more paramount to the standings for both teams than any other game this season. Nick Nurse said before the game that he has been in “pre-playoff mode” for 25 games now. In perhaps the closest thing to a playoff game for teams who have both clinched the postseason, it was fair to expect him and his team to come out hard.

Franz Wagner returned for Orlando after missing two games. Kyle Lowry did the same thing for Philly. KJ Martin and Robert Covington were both out.

1st half

Embiid drew a pair of fouls on the Magic's backcourt in the opening 30 seconds, the second of which was a shooting foul that added two to the scoreboard. He went on to draw a shooting foul on Wendell Carter Jr. a minute later — and then another. Embiid tried to isolate against Orlanoid's defenders but they all stood their ground, with Jalen Suggs forcing him to settle for a jumper that missed and Wagner swiping the ball cleanly away.

The Magic had no choice but to start sending more help to Embiid, opening room for cutters and spot-up shooters. The 76ers superstar made the right passes, on time and on target, to help Philly jump out to an early lead, including a fastball to Kelly Oubre Jr. for a corner trey. After Embiid got his chance to body up Orlando reserve Goga Bitadze, Oubre navigated his way closer to the rim and floated in buckets. He and Embiid each worked up to eight points quickly.

Orlando, one of the NBA's less-heralded halfcourt offenses, looked for every fast break possible. Philly certainly didn’t play with a snail's pace but wasn’t outright hunting transition chances. Maxey helped the Sixers survive a lull with some triples as the Magic looked to storm back. Embiid, playing the whole first quarter for the first time since his return, posted a 13-7-5 stat line as the Sixers led by 13.

De’Anthony Melton and former Sixer Markelle Fultz made their first appearances to start the second quarter. Melton looked really solid but the 76ers' lineup looked out of sorts, missing easy plays and struggling to find an answer for the Magic's size. Paul Reed not coming with his best was a major factor. Before Mo Bamba checked in, Maxey chased down Fultz and blocked his layup, providing a critical stop that would soon be undone after Mo Wagner scored twice in his fellow Mo.

Embiid drilled a corner three and forced Banchero to miss at the rim numerous times after subbing back in for Bamba. Whereas he could do just about no wrong, Tobias Harris was struggling to do right. He was shooting the ball fine on the scoresheet but some of his misses were brutal and also stepped out of bounds on what would have been an open triple. But he did, at least, finish off a shot right under the hoop off of a great feed from Embiid.

Things took a turn for the very scary when Embiid came up hobbling on his left knee, wincing in pain and asking immediately to get subbed out with a little over a minute left in the half. He went right back to the locker room.

Throughout the second quarter, the Magic had resorted to pressing the Sixers deep into the backcourt and deploying defensive stalwart Jonathan Isaac on Embiid. Orlando showed why it’s one of the best defenses in the entire NBA with tough traps on Embiid and active hands that disrupted the Sixers. once Embiid was subbed out, Philly's stability was nearly zapped.

At halftime, the 76ers led 68-61.

2nd half

Embiid re-emerged from the locker room after his teammates and started the second half. He walked into a straight-on triple on his first touch and was clearly exerting himself less. While still able to function as a big, big individual in the paint on defense and someone who can shoot and score on the other end, Embiid looked more like he did in his first few games back. But around him, the 76ers stepped up and hit shots, sparking a 14-5 run to begin the third quarter.

Embiid's defense remained incredible, denying opponents shots in the paint with stellar consistency. Wagner took a tumble into his leg after missing a shot, leaving Embiid to hobble for a bit but nothing too much beyond that. As has become typical with the big man, injury watch was activated fully for the remainder of the game.

The Magic deploying Isaac on Embiid had made him work extra hard. Still, the 76ers found ways to score and made it up to 90 points with a little over five minutes left in the quarter. Embiid was credited with his first blocked shot of the night by sending a Suggs dunk attempt back at him. The Magic didn’t let Embiid's presence deter them often but their resolve didn’t change whether they were making those shots. The big fella switched it up by taking a charge, too.

The 76ers entered the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead. Oubre again took the lead with trying to score, hitting a three and drawing a foul in the first minute of the final period. Maxey had turned a nearly dead possession into a bucket but otherwise couldn’t lead the offense well enough to percent a Magic run. However, it was still the fourth quarter, and Maxey was bound to wake up. Five quick points put the Sixers up by 14, doubling their lead, with seven minutes left.

The Magic managed to cut it to 10 with six left as Embiid returned. The 76ers' offense required some difficult shots from its stars to keep the lead hovering around double-digits. Harris provided some tough defense against Banchero, making the All-Star work to get a step on him.

The Sixers staying home in the paint on defense and rebounding hard prevented any Magic comeback. The benches emptied with a little over a minute left. Philly had won its biggest game of the season. Now, it's all about Embiid's knee being all good.

Assorted observations:

  • The Magic's alternate uniforms are nice but alternates are for home. Please, NBA and Nike, keep jersey rotations more normal.
  • Maxey blocking Fultz goes down as one of the most notable plays in recent Sixers history for how interwoven their NBA journeys are. His connection to Mike Muscala is frequently mentioned but Fultz plays a critical part in that story, too.

The 76ers' final regular season game is at home on Sunday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets.