Instant observations: Sixers squander 21-point lead in loss to Magic


The Sixers turned the ball over 18 times in a brutal 119-109 loss to the Magic, squandering a 21-point lead with poor effort and defense in the final three quarters.

Here’s what I saw.

The Good

• Anytime Matisse Thybulle has seven points in the first half of a basketball game, you basically have to treat that as found money. I’m under no illusion that he’s on the verge of a breakthrough on that end of the floor, but we saw more from him in a single game than we might see over a period of weeks during a season, and that’s worth celebrating. 

It wasn’t just that Thybulle hit threes in this game, it’s that he actively tried to hunt his own shot. After hitting a corner three in the first half, Thybulle found some confidence on offense, attempting (and making!) a three off of movement in the third quarter. There was even a play where he put his shoulder into a Magic player and tried to play a bit of bully bull inside the arc, coming up with everything aside from the finish at the rim after working his way there from the perimeter.

That alone represents progress. Thybulle’s offensive problems are two-fold, as he hasn’t shot well and he’s timid about letting shots go. If he can at least find an aggressive streak, perhaps whatever work he has put in will win out over the long term.

Thybulle deserves plenty of credit for his defensive work which frequently empowered his offensive opportunities. The Magic are not exactly loaded with ballhandling and playmaking talent, and that’s a style of team Thybulle is best suited to disrupt. Take Bol Bol, for example. He’s widely known as a black hole on offense, and Thybulle had clearly read the scouting report, flooding Bol’s airspace whenever he caught the ball. 

He was one of the few guys who draped himself in glory on Monday night, a couple of days after another strong outing against Denver.

The Bad

• Philadelphia looked to have this game well in control in the second quarter, running out to a 21-point lead and looking like a team who could spend most of the second half in towel-waving mode. But they took their foot off of the gas a bit in the late stages of the first half, allowing the Magic back into a game they probably should have had in the bag by then.

Their problems basically all came on defense, where attention to detail and effort came and went. James Harden had some possessions where he just watched as guys went by him or flashed to the perimeter for wide-open threes, and he had plenty of company in lethargic land. Montrezl Harrell was his typically disengaged self on that end, Tyrese Maxey was a little bit out of his depth against a super-sized team, and so on down the line.

(On the Maxey point — he was totally unequipped to defend former Sixers guard Markelle Fultz, even with Fultz completely disinterested in the three-point line. Fultz simply went through the smaller guard at times, picking up some tough points in the paint in the second half.)

I’m not sure you need to analyze this one much deeper than saying the effort sucked for at least half of this game. It would be one thing to concede open shots to non-shooters and say you’re making a strategic decision, but the Sixers left almost everybody open at one point or another in this game. Harden was the biggest culprit, stuck on a bigger player and refusing to switch on several occasions, but it was a teamwide struggle.

• Turnovers were Philadelphia’s other main issue after a hot start, some of which you credit to the Magic and some of which you chalk up to general sloppiness. Orlando was disruptive, getting into Embiid’s airspace and catching him off guard several times throughout the night. But again, Philadelphia’s lack of focus burned them in this department. Backcourt giveaways on inbounds passes, for example, should basically never happen, and the Sixers had a few turnovers simply trying to get the ball in after a made basket for Orlando.

The Sixers didn’t respond well when they turned the ball over or failed to finish a possession with a make, their old transition defense problem roaring back to the forefront. Nearly a quarter of Orlando’s shot attempts in this game came in transition, a bad sign for Philadelphia’s ball security and offensive execution. They ran at basically every opportunity they had on live-ball rebounds, and the Sixers were only halfway interested in dealing with that.

After allowing the Magic to get back into this game, there was still an opportunity for Philadelphia to pull away or even out-talent Orlando, the game knotted at 97 when Embiid checked back in toward the start of the fourth quarter. By that point, though, the Magic seemed to sense that they had a real chance to win this game, and their desire to steal one on the road was palpable as they beat the Sixers to a bunch of loose balls that swung possessions and led to points. On top of that, the Sixers spent far too much of this game complaining to the officials about calls, giving the Magic odd-man rush opportunities while bickering with the refs.

Just an ugly game overall after a very promising start.

• Harden was probably due for a subpar outing. They shouldn’t have needed an A+ Harden game to beat the Orlando Magic, and he didn’t come close to delivering that sort of performance.

Of all the players in the lineup, he appeared to be most impacted by Orlando’s funky lineup. Harden didn’t get downhill basically at all in this game, left to make an impact solely with stepback threes and passes sprayed around the floor. He did plenty of smart playmaking as always, but his jumper wasn’t there most of the evening, and on the rare occasion he did get to the hoop, Harden was often left wanting, his first points in the paint coming late in this game.

Add that on top of the defensive issues, and you have the recipe for a Sixers loss.

• I still do not understand the point of Harrell, and bringing him in during a big Orlando run was just a comical decision from Rivers. 

• The Sixers did not appear to understand they had a decent-sized lead to cut into late, and wasted several relatively open shot opportunities before eventually turning the ball over on the possession that basically decided the game. 

• This was basically the perfect setting for a letdown performance. Embiid was coming off of a banger against the man who beat him to the last two MVP awards, the Sixers were fresh off of a win against the No. 1 seed in the West, and Philadelphia’s attention is almost wholly on the Eagles. Who would have noticed if they laid an egg against the Orlando Magic?

The Sixers at least decided to show up for the first quarter. Embiid was engaged defensively — well, mostly — from the opening tip onward, and that was just about all the Sixers needed to jump on a bad Magic team.

Following a pair of excellent blocks at the rim on Franz Wagner, Embiid made a concerted effort to run the floor and use his strength advantage for early seals in/around the paint. The big man also found some synergy with Tobias Harris early in this game, though not in the way you might expect — it was the big guy playing setup man for Harris, who served as the second option on offense for most of this one.

In theory, the Magic have the length to shrink the floor and bat balls away from Embiid when he tries to move toward the rim. In practice, his primary defender was always going to be giving up too much weight for that to make a difference. The Magic have a group of guys he has tortured throughout his career (Mo Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. specifically) and wasted no time getting to work in one-on-one battles. Even when the Magic sent a second defender or succeeded in catching him off guard with late help, Embiid often just shot himself out of trouble, killing Orlando along the baseline with silky touch.

If only that guy had been available for the second half. In spite of the fact that he had 30-10-5 at the end of the game, I thought this was a crappy second half from Embiid. Way too many sloppy turnovers and not enough killer instinct. 

The Ugly

• Doc Rivers pulled Embiid in the final minute of the first half, in what I would imagine was a move to protect him from a third foul. But Embiid’s reaction to the sub was absolutely hilarious, looking up at the scoreboard in confusion before slowly walking over to the head coach.

• The game clocks at Wells Fargo Center somehow didn’t get fixed between Saturday’s win over the Nuggets and this game. Guess nobody was working on Sunday because of the Eagles, or something. Amateur hour!

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

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Are plant-based meats healthy? These products often lack nutrients found in animal protein, research shows


Plant-based meats have become more popular in recent years, with consumers being able to find alternatives to everything from hot dogs to breakfast sausages. 

And though plant-based meats are generally considered the healthier option, they sometimes lack nutrients found in their meat equivalents, a new study found.

In testing 132 plant-based meat products, researchers in Australia found that they offered similar amounts of protein when compared to equivalent meat products. But only 12% of plant-based meats were fortified with iron, zinc and B-12 – nutrients that are commonly found in animal protein. Plant-based meats also can be high in sugar.

Iron is essential for growth and development. The body uses the mineral to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to organs and tissue. Zinc, another mineral, is needed to support the immune system, and B-12, a vitamin, plays a major role in the body’s red blood cell formation, cell metabolism and nerve function.

Maria Shahid, a data analyst at the George Institute for Global Health, which conducted the study, said both meat options are concerning when it comes to healthy eating.

“Both plant-based and processed meats mostly fall into the ultra-processed category, so this raises concerns about their role in a healthy diet,” Shahid said. “While we found plant-based meat products were generally healthier than their processed meat equivalents, healthier alternatives would still be lean unprocessed meats and legumes, beans and falafel.”

Plant-based meats are typically made from peas, soy, wheat gluten and rice. Though they may lack some essential vitamins, the researchers found they generally have less saturated fat and sodium than meat products. They also offer more fiber. Processed and red meats also have been linked to cancer.

Daisy Coyle, a dietitian at the George Institute, recommended people eat plant-based meat products in moderation until more is known about their health impacts. 

“But it isn’t as simple as a straight swap – solely relying on meat alternatives as a direct replacement for meat could lead to iron, zinc and B12 deficiencies over time if you are not boosting your intake of these essential nutrients from other sources or taking supplements,” Coyle said.

To avoid these deficiencies, Coyle advised people to eat eggs and dairy products to gain essential animal proteins, and to consume iron-rich foods like chick peas, nuts and dark, leafy greens. 

“Until we know more about the health impacts of plant-based meat analogues and have recommendations on how to include them as part of a healthy balanced diet, its best to eat them in moderation along with other plant-based proteins such as bean patties, falafel and tofu, or if you are not vegetarian or vegan, unprocessed lean meats and seafood.”

Deena Champion, a registered dietician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, examined the nutritional value of plant-based meats in a blog post last year. She noted that a plant-based label doesn’t necessarily mean a food is healthier.

“Many alternatives to animal products, including alternatives to cheeses, contain coconut oil which is a saturated fat,” Champion wrote. “Again, moderation is key here.”

Champion also recommended people opt for meat alternatives made with whole foods, noting she has enjoyed frozen veggie burgers made with lentils, kale, sweet potatoes and flax. They were high in fiber, protein and nutrients – and tasted good, she said.

“This is an example of a product that, nutritionally, was a better option than meat,” Champion wrote. “However, I’ve seen some vegan or plant-based options that are nutritionally worse or no better than their meat counterparts.”

Plant-based meats soared in popularity in 2020. Sales increased by 45%, according to data collected by the Good Food Institute. Plant-based food dollar sales grew by 6% – three times faster than overall food sales. 

But that growth flatlined in 2021 and began falling in 2022, the Washington Post reported in November. That may partly be due to the price of plant-based meats. Plant-based beef is twice as expensive as beef and plant-based chicken is four times as expensive as chicken. 

Another factor is unclear health benefits. The second generation of plant-based food products were marketed toward flexitarians – people who are seeking to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, their meat consumption. 

“But once the novelty went away, the consumer started to read the label,” JP Frossard, a consumer foods analyst at Rabobank, told the Post. “Meat has one ingredient and now you’re looking at products with 15. People started asking, ‘What is methyl cellulose and why am I paying a premium for it?'”

For people who are looking to adopt healthier lifestyles, leaner meats are better, Champion wrote, noting it’s ideal to add plants to one’s diet.

“In general, we always want to (choose) more minimally processed foods for the majority of our diet,” Champion wrote. “Highly processed foods often contain added salt, fat and sugar, which in high amounts can cause problems. Plus, when we fill up on highly processed foods, we leave less room for healthier options.”


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10 surprise players who helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl


Before the start of the 2022 NFL season, the consensus was that the Philadelphia Eagles would be a good football team, but there were very few who picked them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Just like in 2017, the Eagles got surprise performances from a number of players who took them to the next level.


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