Sixers can't dig out of the hole this time

Dwight Howard throws down a slam during the first half. The 76ers held Howard to only 11 points, but he also recorded 10 rebounds and four blocks. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

This is generally what happens when you fall behind by 18 points in the third quarter of an NBA playoff game.

This is generally what happens: you lose.

The Sixers survived that deficit in Game 1. This time, there was no miracle. There was only magic; Magic 96, Sixers 87. With that, their playoff series is tied at a game apiece with Game 3 on Friday night at the Wachovia Center.

And if the broad outlines of that 18-point deficit were the same, the games themselves were much different. How different? Well, both Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff had their second fouls with 4:24 left in the first quarter as they fenced with the Magic's Dwight Howard. The Sixers had to go to Reggie Evans at that point, and then Marreese Speights, and the Magic were suddenly having a much easier time getting to the rim.

Then there were Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, both with big scoring presences in the first game of the series, both held down in the first half (Iguodala with one point at the break, Williams with two).

Then there were the turnovers: 11 at the half, just careless and unacceptable. If Andre Miller hadn't hit 8-for-11 at the break, it would have been a total disaster. As it was, the combination of all of that left the Sixers trailing by 46-39 at the half...and it just went from there.

After a couple of ridiculous Dwight Howard dunks, the Magic lead was 18 points in the middle of the third quarter, just like in Game 1. And then the Sixers came back, just like in Game 1. After cutting it to five, the third quarter ended with the Magic ahead by 70-62. Iguodala began to dominate for the Sixers, scoring 12 points in the quarter.

The Sixers did keep coming. That is to their credit. They cut it to 72-67 with 8:40 to go. Howard had to sit for more than 4 minutes with his fifth foul, and fouled out on an offensive foul with 3:11 to go. The Sixers had their opening. It was 84-79 with 2:56 to go. But it was too far to come back. This is what happens when you fall behind by 18 points in a playoff game.

Miller was great for the Sixers with 30 points. Iguodala had 21 and Thaddeus Young had 20. Howard had a much quieter 11 points for Orlando. The guy who killed them was Courtney Lee with 24, but hobbled forwards Hedo Turkgolu (14) and Rashard Lewis (16) also showed new life.

Big picture, the Sixers got their split on the road and still have the homecourt advantage. But the holes they are digging are too deep. This they now know, too.