For nearly 24 hours, it looked like the Orlando Magic were going to take a significant step forward in having more players available Sunday vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
That didn’t come to fruition.
The Magic (5-15) were without six key players in their season-worst 133-103 loss to the 76ers (11-9), their second defeat to Philadelphia in three days as part of their “baseball-style” series that started with a 107-99 loss Friday at Amway Center.
Cole Anthony (torn right internal oblique), Wendell Carter Jr. (strained right plantar fascia strain), Markelle Fultz (fractured left big toe), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) sat.
The absences of Anthony and Isaac were expected, with both entering Sunday being listed as out.
But Carter, Fultz, Okeke and Suggs were all listed as questionable ahead of tipoff, making it possible the Magic were going to have several rotation players back — which didn’t happen.
“I haven’t seen anything like this,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I really haven’t. There was the COVD[-19] hit, there was the injury [hit] — I haven’t seen much like this. It’s something different.
“It’s not an excuse. Trying to find rotations [and] find guys you’re trying not to burn down on minutes because you’ve got a back-to-back, those are situations you have to continue to take into consideration as we go forward.”
Player-availability issues related to injuries aren’t new for the Magic. They’ve had at least five players sidelined each game and had 107 total player games missed to injury/illness entering Sunday.
While acknowledging the challenges that come with being short-handed consistently, they haven’t made excuses and have battled in most games — making Sunday’s loss concerning.
It was their third loss by at least 18 points — all of which have come in the past two weeks — and the second in the last week by at least 20. Their previous largest deficit in a loss this season was their 123-102 defeat to the Pacers in Indianapolis last Monday.
Paolo Banchero had a team-high 18 points while Franz Wagner added 17 points.
The 76ers’ 64.9% field goal accuracy (55 of 77) tied highest the Magic have allowed in franchise history. They also allowed the San Antonio Spurs to shoot 64.9% from the field on Dec. 19, 2018.
“We didn’t play any,” Mosley said about the team’s defense. “That’s the reality of it right there.”
Shake Milton (29 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds) and Tobias Harris (25 points on 7-of-10 shooting) led the 76ers’ efficient offense. Philadelphia, who was also short-handed, scored 72 points in the paint.
The 76ers were without Joel Embiid (sprained left midfoot), Tyrese Maxey (fractured left foot) and James Harden (strained right foot tendon).
“It’s frustrating to be short-handed, but everybody is,” said Moe Wagner (12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists). “Look at the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s not an excuse.”
If Fultz played, it would’ve been his season debut after being sidelined for the season’s start, missing the first 20 games because of a fractured left big toe.
Fultz fractured the toe shortly before training camp started on Sept. 27.
He told the Orlando Sentinel on Nov. 9 that he was hoping to return “within the next 3-4 weeks” — a time frame of Wednesday-Dec. 7.
“We’re just going to give it a couple of more days just to as he gets going,” Mosley said pregame.
Mosley added that Fultz won’t be available for Monday’s road game against the Brooklyn Nets in New York, the second night of a back-to-back.
Suggs played 19 minutes Friday and didn’t return after being subbed out with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
“He tried to give it a go the other night and obviously, it didn’t look the part in my eyes,” Mosley said of Suggs. It’s constantly helping him understand we gotta play the longer version of this vs. continue to press on it.”
His absence was considered precautionary.
Carter has missed 5 of 6 games with the foot injury while Okeke’s absence was his second of the season.
Terrence Ross, who was available after sitting Friday because of an illness, was ruled out during the third quarter. Mo Bamba also left during the third because of spasms, leaving the Magic with nine available players down the stretch.
Two-way wing Kevon Harris, who was available after entering as Sunday as questionable because of an illness, was the lone available Magic player who didn’t play.
Mosley said he expected Bamba and Ross to travel for Monday’s game but wasn’t entirely sure when speaking to reporters immediately after Sunday’s loss.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.