Sixers vs Magic Preview: Somebody Has to Win
The Sixers will look to pick things back up after falling apart in the second half of Saturday’s 104-72 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and will have just the opponent to do so: the 0-3 Orlando Magic.
What: Sixers (0-2) vs Magic (0-3)
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
When: Tuesday, November 1st, 7 PM Eatern
Watch: Cocmast SportsNet
Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid
Opponent: Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic
(Note: Official starting lineups are released approximately one hour before the game).
Ben Simmons (out, fractured right foot), Nerlens Noel (out, knee), Jerryd Bayless (out, left wrist).
Jahlil Okafor is available to play, but will likely be given the night off as the Sixers manage his rest on back-to-backs. The Sixers play the Hornets, in Charlotte, tomorrow night.
Joel Embiid‘s minute restrictions have been bumped up to 24 minutes for tonight’s game.
About The Opponent:
The Magic have struggled out of the gate for new head coach Frank Vogel, dropping all three of their games to the Heat, Pistons, and Cavaliers, shooting just 39.3 percent and sporting the league’s third-worst offense (93.6 points per 100 possessions) in the process.
Like the Sixers, the Magic have a disproportionate amount of talent in their frontcourt, with Serge Ibaka, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Bismack Biyombo all vying for minutes in a crowded frontcourt rotation.
That crowded frontcourt isn’t just in regards to the minutes situation, though, as the Magic suffer from floor spacing concerns as well, concerns which are enhanced by starting Elfrid Payton (12.5 percent from three-point range) at the point guard spot. On the plus side, Aaron Gordon — a career 29.9 percent three-point shooter — has started the season off strong, connecting on 57.1 percent of his (limited) three-point attempts so far.
Serge Ibaka is an interesting fit with Nikola Vucevic because he provides shot blocking and perimeter shooting to help cover up for Vucevic’s deficiencies, but the presence of Vucevic and Biyombo virtually guarantee that Ibaka will be out of position defensively, limiting the potential impact of a player who led the league in blocked shots twice during his Oklahoma City tenure. Ibaka’s blocked just two shots so far in his three games with the Magic because of it.
At this stage, the Magic don’t really have much of an identity. After being a darling on how to properly conduct a rebuild, they don’t really have a player to build around. Their defense is bad. Their offense is bad. And they have major money committed to some questionable fits.
At the very least, Evan Fournier, who signed a 5 year, $85 million contract extension this summer, has looked good. The 24-year-old Fournier is averaging a career-high 16.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game despite struggling from three-point range (25 percent, career 36.8 percent three-point shooter) to start the season. Fournier’s growth on the perimeter is critical to Orlando constructing a balanced team in the future.
What To Look For:
I really could do that for this section for every game that Joel Embiid plays, as his matchup is always going to be the focal point for the 76ers, and their fans.
This is at the very least another matchup that’s interesting from that perspective. While Vucevic is a negative defender overall, his strength on that end of the court is his post defense, and he should have some success keeping Embiid off of the offensive glass. What will be interesting to watch is whether Embiid will be able to draw the slow-footed Vucevic out of the paint, face him up, and take him off the dribble, an area where Embiid should have an advantage.
Orlando can then bring Biyombo off of the bench, throwing a different look at Embiid. Biyombo is significantly shorter than Embiid — measuring in at just under 6-foot-10 — but he’s a strong defender who could have some success holding his ground against Embiid and is more athletic than Vucevic. Embiid will then have to watch out for Ibaka coming in from the weak side.
While the Sixers played two relatively strong teams to start the season, this should be a very winnable game. The Sixers haven’t won a game before December 1st in each of the past two seasons, and are just 6-47 in October/November during Brett Brown‘s three-plus seasons as head coach. This would be a great opportunity to pick up an early-season W.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.