The Magic showed grit in a fiery second half and rallied from 16 down to tie it 93-all on Mo Bamba's dunk with 57 seconds left. The Magic bench erupted with the team on the brink of upset.
The Sixers just hung on from the line. Ty Maxey made two for the lead, Joel Embiid hit 3 of 4 and Maxey added two more to help the Sixers avoid an embarrassing defeat. Embiid scored 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
Last season's top regular-season team in the East, the Sixers were hit with injury and illness this season that left them sputtering along at .500 most of this year. Embiid missed nine games because of COVID-19 - it him so bad, he said he had "headaches worse than migraines" - and Harris and Danny Green were among the other Sixers out for games because of league protocols.
Throw in the season-long absence of All-Star Ben Simmons following his trade demand, and the Sixers have been out of sync in Doc Rivers' second year on the bench.
Consider, the opening night lineup of Embiid-Harris-Green-Curry-Maxey started for only the seventh time this season (5-2).
For a while, the combo worked.
The Magic missed their first five threes and the Sixers raced to a 31-19 lead.
But this was no blowout. And it was more proof that backed Rivers' belief the starting lineup needed more games together to get its groove back.
"This team is going to be really good. I just feel it," he said before the game. "It'll take a little bit, but we'll be fine."
The Magic about handed Philly its worst loss of the season.
Embiid still look fatigued in the second half and the Magic rallied their way into the lead. The Magic took the lead 64-62 on Suggs' pick off of Embiid's lazy pass and a fastbreak dunk that ignited boos from the home crowd. Suggs swung from the rim and then pointed toward the sky as he hustled back on defence. Wagner let out a primal yell on another dunk off a turnover that kept Orlando's lead at three.
Magic coach Jamahl Mosley got a pep-talk from Rivers shortly after Orlando hired him in July. Rivers' advice was simple: understand Orlando's rebuild is about the long haul.
"Just trust the process of things," Mosley said. "Put in the work with guys and make sure the guys know how much you care."
Knocking the Sixers on the ropes is all part of the journey for the Magic.
Embiid and Curry hit consecutive 3s late in the third to send the Sixers to an 81-78 lead at the end of the quarter. Curry hit a 3 that made it 94-89 late in the fourth, yet the Sixers still couldn't completely hold off Orlando.
Magic: Former 76ers guards Michael Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 rookie of the year, and Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 draft, both remained sidelined with injuries. Mosley said there is no timeline for the players, each once considered key cornerstones of the Sixers' rebuild, to return to the lineup.
76ers: C Andre Drummond had his fourth game this season with at least 10 rebounds off the bench.
Magic: Host Denver on Wednesday.
Sixers: Head out on a four-game trip and play Wednesday at Boston. The Sixers play in Atlanta and twice in Charlotte to end a stretch of 10 of 12 games on the road.