After the Sixers had a few days to digest their disappointing blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Philly will take the court again for a matchup with the Orlando Magic. This will be an excellent opportunity to wipe the slate clean and look to get back on track as the season begins to wind down. With 17 games remaining, there will be some interesting seeding races to watch, and after such a disappointing effort their last time on the floor, a positive performance would go a long way to increasing hopes around this Sixers team.
Who Are the Orlando Magic?
The Orlando Magic have a record of 18-50 on the season, which puts them at the bottom spot of the Eastern Conference and is the second-worst record in the NBA. The Magic rank 28th in the NBA in points per game, 29th in offensive rating, and 19th in defensive rating. Their youthful roster is led in scoring by Cole Anthony, who averages 17.2 points per game, and the team also has several young players who are expected to grow into impactful NBA players in a few years.
The two teams have squared off three times this season, with the Sixers coming out on top in all three matchups. One of these matchups was the Joel Embiid masterclass in which he tied his career-high by tallying 50 points in just 27 minutes of play. In another memorable matchup in January, Mo Bamba knocked down seven three-pointers scoring a career-high 32 points in what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime performance for the big man.
Will The Sixers Rest?
One of the larger storylines to watch is who will actually suit up for the Sixers. In the media availability following yesterday’s practice, Doc Rivers hinted at this being a possibility as the priority is ensuring they will be ready for playoffs.
Given the Magic’s poor record and the Sixers matchup with the Nuggets tomorrow night, this seems like an excellent game to give the night off to either Joel Embiid or James Harden. There have been some moments lately where Embiid has looked noticeably sluggish, and getting him back to peak performance is crucial to the Sixers’ success. Especially considering the showdown with Nikola Jokic tomorrow night, which is sure to be a massive national storyline, giving the Sixers MVP candidate a night off may not be a bad idea.
The Return of Markelle Fultz
The story of Markelle Fultz in Philadelphia did not go as anyone expected. The guy who was hailed “The Final Piece fo the Process” and the missing link between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons was never able to find his stride with the Sixers. After playing a total of just 33 games with the Sixers due to his mysterious shoulder injury, it was clear this was not the place where Fultz would reach his full potential, and he was traded to Orlando for a top-20 protected first-round pick.
The fact that this draft pick eventually turned into Tyrese Maxey certainly helped ease the disappointment of Fultz’s tenure and the drama that surrounded it. Recently, Markelle Fultz cleared the air on his time with the Sixers and why there were no hard feelings which was nice to hear.
After missing about after tearing his ACL last season, Fultz recently made his return to the Magic and has begun to get back on track for his career trajectory. In the 5 games since he has been back, Fultz is averaging 10.4 points and 4.4 assists in the 17 minutes per game he plays. While he has not shown signs of the superstar he was expected to become, there have been promising moments in his time in Orlando, and he is beginning to find his NBA niche.
The Sixers and Magic will tip off at 6 PM in tonight’s matchup. The game will take place in Orlando and will be the Sixers’ last trip south this season.