After a day spent recharging and supposedly enjoying delicious holiday meals, the 9-9 Philadelphia 76ers will begin the return leg of their three-game road trip against the 5-13 Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Both teams are far behind. James Harden (right foot tendon sprain), Joel Embiid (left midfoot sprain), Tyrese Maxey (left foot fracture), Matisse Tibul (left ankle tenosynovitis), and Jayden Springer (right quadriceps sprain) are not in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Magic will not include Cole Anthony (right internal oblique tear), Markelle Fultz (left big toe fracture) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery).
Wendell Carter, Jr. (right plantar fascia strain) and Okeke Plague (left knee soreness) are listed as questionable. Head coach Jamal Mosley told reporters that the decision would be made during the game. Orlando, however, welcomes the return of its rising star, rookie Paolo Banquero, who has missed the last seven games with a sprained left ankle.
Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke weren’t involved in the shootouts this morning, and according to Jamal Mosley, they will be making the decisions in tonight’s game against the Sixers.
— Hobi Price (@khobi_price) November 25, 2022
The Sixers are 10th in net rating (+1.7), 19th in offensive rating (111.5) and fifth in defensive rating (109.8). Orlando is 25th in the net rating (-3.6), 24th in the offensive rating (110.3) and 22nd in the defensive rating (113.9).
There is a clear clash of styles here. Magic’s starting lineup is huge. Bunchero (6’10”), Carter (6’10”), Franz Wagner (6’10”) and Bol Bol (7’2″) are well taller than any of the Philadelphia Pitmen’s starting lineup, which is expected to be led by 6 -foot-7 Montrezl Harrell and Tobias Harris. Orlando ranks seventh in rim frequency, so the 24th-ranked offense might look better in this case if it could successfully use the size advantage working in its favor.
Defensive depth, however, has been a problem and this youth-dominated team will pass the ball. “Magic” is ranked 28th in terms of staff turnover (16.7%). With defensive playmakers like DeAnthony Melton and Paul Reed, Philadelphia should mitigate the size difference by flipping Orlando and creating opportunities for a fast break. Melton had 12 interceptions in the last three games and Reid had six. The Sixers’ offense has pretty much become exhausting since Harden left the roster, and creating easier chances should be a priority. They have the staff to do that and Orlando will help with that effort.
Magic’s assault is led by its giant creators, Banchero and Wagner, who win in different ways. Banchero is a powerful downward force that combines strength, explosive power and a smooth handle to blast your way through the paint. Wagner outflanks defenders and relies on his length and touch. I expect Harris and PJ Tucker to handle those tasks defensively, with Tucker on Bunquero and Harris on Wagner. However, this can be a problem for Philadelphia because Wagner tends to use screens more than Banchero and Harris is not a particularly frugal screen navigator.
I also have no idea what the 66ers are doing against Bol. He’s a terrific carver who uses his galloping steps and 7ft 8in wingspan to find the folds of space to crush defenses for solid buckets. He is seven inches taller than any of Philadelphia’s tallest freshmen. The 6-foot-9 Reid is most likely to come off the bench as the tallest spin option, and he’s still five inches south of Bol. If Carter Jr. plays, his perimeter skills will also get Harrell in trouble. There are a lot of inconsistencies. This makes it even more important for the 66ers to drop Orlando frequently.
In two games without Harden, Maxi and Embiid, Philadelphia’s offense depended on Shake’s shots from Milton, Melton and Harris, with the latter two practicing dribbling. Orlando’s growth could be a problem for these two guards. I’m curious to see how the 66ers counter this. Also, as a starter for the Magic, Harris was not destined to play against Harris, which was the focus of his approach this week. Orlando’s defensive cohesion has not been clear so far and represents a path to success for the 66ers.
The benches on both sides are quite sporadic. This could be a flashpoint for either team to change the game in their own way.
The Sixers and Magic will be on stage in a few hours. They will do the same in two days. By then, we’ll have a much better idea of how they fit together, at least as they’re currently built, with injuries and everything.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
When: 7:00 pm EDT
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 Fanatic
To follow: @LibertyBallers