Magic Clinch Even Without Howard
But instead of following the script, taking their beating and regrouping for Game 7 on Saturday, Rashard Lewis and company reminded the 76ers that there's more to the Magic than Superman and an upstart rookie, clinching the series with a surprisingly easy 114-89 win.
Lewis scored a game-high 29 points while Rafer Alston (21 points, 10 assists) and Marcin Gortat (11 points, 15 boards) each came through with a double-double. Even J.J. Redick came through, scoring all 15 of his points from beyond the arc.
Orlando better hope that Redick stays hot -- after combining for just 12 minutes in the first four games, Redick has played 61 in the last two while filling in for the injured Lee, who could be done for the postseason following surgery to repair a fractured sinus.
The 76ers have to be extremely disappointed with the way they rolled over (on their home court, no less) against the short-handed Magic, who set the tone early by jumping out to a 30-19 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
After having three of the first five games in this series decided by three points or fewer, it's as if the 76ers suddenly realized they were playing above their heads. Sadly, it's a familiar story: they turned heads in the first round last year by taking the No. 2 seed Pistons to six games, but just like this postseason, they reverted back to form before the Cinderella story had a chance to get really interesting.
At least last year ended on an optimistic note that the 76ers were headed in the right direction. Now, it's not quite as clear cut where this team is going. There's a chance that Andre Miller, who's just weeks away from unrestricted free agency, could leave, and they still have to figure out what to do with Elton Brand, who never seemed to fit in before suffering his season-ending shoulder injury.
But those are questions for another day; tonight, Philadelphia was simply outmatched by the surprisingly deep Magic.