When the Sixers face off against the Orlando Magic tonight at 7 pm eastern at the Amway center, both teams will look significantly different than the teams met earlier this month.
The Magic, losers of 7 of their last 10, will be without controversial all-star center Dwight Howard, along with Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis. Ryan Anderson, who missed the last game the two teams played, has returned to the lineup for the Magic.
For the Sixers, Doug Collins has decided to start Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand as his frontcourt pairing for the first time during his tenure as Sixers coach. Young has started only one game for Doug Collins, and that was in place of Elton Brand last year.
The Young/Brand combo has performed well so far this year, but Collins has always preferred to pair the two when the matchups were advantageous rather than run the out at the start of the game. Whether or not this is a long term pairing or just a reaction to the injury-depleted Magic frontcourt will be interesting to watch going forward.
Outside of the intrigue of the new lineup, there isn't much to get overly excited about with the Sixers. The Sixers are currently a half game ahead of the Knicks for the 8th spot and 2.5 up on Milwaukee, who has lost 3 of their last 4, for the final spot in the East. The division is out of reach, as the Sixers are 4 games behind the surging Celtics, who have won 6 of their last 7.
The Magic have won 2 of 3 against the Sixers so far this year. The Sixers haven't scored more than 87 points in any single game against the Magic, averaging just 81 points per game on 39.9% from the field. Jrue Holiday, particularly, has struggled, averaging 4.7 points and 3.7 assists on 21.5% from the field. Obviously, without Dwight Howard the Magic will be a significantly different defensive team.
For Thaddeus Young, defending Ryan Anderson will be as important in his first start as anything he does offensively. Anderson has struggled in his 4 starts since returning from injury, but he averaged 20.5 points and 11 rebounds in the two games he played against the Sixers earlier this year. Without a pick and roll threat in Turkoglu and Howard to collapse the middle Anderson will obviously struggle to get the same looks as he has, but he is the type of power forward the Sixers have at times struggled to defend.
Game thread will be up at 6 eastern.
Prediction: Sixers 93, Magic 89