Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic : Preview

Game Info : 7:00 PM at Wells Fargo Center

Aired on CSN

Tonight, the Sixers (20-26) welcome Orlando Magic (14-33) into the Wells Fargo Center, and look to pick up their third consecutive win. Good defense has been the key to the recent success for the Sixers, holding three of their last four opponents under 90 points.

After a mediocre 12-13 start to the season, the Magic have gone just 2-20 since, and are now dealing with injuries. Forward Glen Davis is out for the season with a fractured foot,  Jameer Nelson is out with a forearm injury, and Arron Afflalo is also out nursing a calf injury.

In a game the Sixers should probably win without much of a fight, there are some story lines. Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless will be back in Philly, after the Sixers dealt the 2011 and 2012 first-round picks to Orlando in the Andrew Bynum trade. Vucevic has been impressive in Orlando, averaging more than 12 points and 11 rebounds a night. The former-Sixer has been the most consistent player for the struggling Magic, grabbing at least 9 rebounds in 26 straight games, including a 29-rebound performance against the Miami Heat on New Year’s Eve. Harkless has had an inconsistent rookie season to say the least, but has played much better since being reinserted into the starting line-up. Saturday night against the Bucks, he picked up career highs in points with 19, rebounds with 14, and steals with 4.

Look for the Sixers to try to get off to a quick start, establish a big lead, and give some extended minutes to the bench. Since Nick Young has joined the starting line-up, the Sixers have averaged more than 28 points per game in the first quarter, while he has averaged 18 of his own.

If the Sixers plan to run away with this game and give some rest to their starters, they will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Forced to play an inexperienced line-up due to injury, look for Orlando to try to get easy looks in transition as often as possible. Jrue Holiday is coming off a season-high 8 turnovers against the Kings in a game the team turned the ball over 20 times and still came out victorious.

Rebounding has to be a big concern for the Sixers tonight as well. They can not give Vucevic and company second chance opportunities and expect to win. They will need to limit the Magic to one shot per possession, and keep their former seven-footer off the offensive glass. Expect Spencer Hawes to be matched up with Vucevic often as they possess similar skill sets from a mobility standpoint. 

Finally, the Sixers need to win this game. They’re supposed to win this game. They should win this game. With all that said, it seems like these are the games they struggle with the most. Whether its lack of preparation, focus, or just effort, the Sixers tend to have problems against lesser opponents. With the All-Star Break around the corner, Andrew Bynum’s return in the near future, and a chance to win a third straight, the Sixers need to take care of business against the teams they should beat. Orlando is one of those teams, this could be one of those games that determines where you are come postseason, on the basketball court, or on the golf course.

Tags: Andrew Bynum Moe Harkless Nick Young Nikola Vucevic Orlando Magic Philadelphia 76ers Spencer Hawes

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