The 20-9 Philadelphia 76ers will take the floor in Orlando on Wednesday for a game against Dwight Howard and the Magic. These two teams met a little over two weeks ago in Philadelphia, where the Sixers won 74-69. Despite the final margin the Sixers dominated the second half and led by 69-51 with 2 minutes and 40 seconds remaining. At that point, the game was over, but the Magic were able to trim the lead in the final minutes, capped off by a J.J. Reddick three at the buzzer for the backdoor cover.
The Sixers' lackadaisical play in the final three minutes left coach Doug Collins steamed and you may remember the obscenities lip-read 'round the world that Collins shouted in the general direction of Evan Turner after the game, which prompted E.T. to spike a towel in frustration. Correlation or not, Evan's minutes have slightly diminished since the incident.
Most onlookers, myself included, refused to classify the Sixers' win over the Magic as "impressive" because the Magic were reeling and experiencing unique circumstances as their star player openly lobbied to play elsewhere and publicly ripped his teammates.
Despite the ongoing awkwardness the Magic have righted the ship since their loss to the Sixers. They've won six of their last eight, including a road win over the Pacers and a win against the Heat. Their only losses have come in overtime, one to the Clippers and one to the Hawks.
On the injury front, the Magic are healthy except for backup forward, Glen, Davis, who's questionable for Wednesday's game.
The keys to the game will be the same as the last time these teams met: limit Dwight and the Magic on the offensive glass, keep the points in the paint margin fairly close, don't settle for long twos and exploit the Magic's weak bench with the Night Shift.
Dwight is going to get his, especially against Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and Tony Battie. The key is not allowing the his Magic teammates to go off. Ryan Anderson is the X-Factor. Last time the Magic and Sixers played Anderson was battling injuries. Now he's healthy and back to performing at a high level. He's averaging about 17 and 8 since the Sixers game, along with nearly 3 threes per game at a 43 percent clip. Elton Brand is going to have trouble chasing Anderson around on the perimeter, so Thad's defense is going to be important tonight.
The Magic front court of Dwight and Anderson are terrible match-ups for this Sixers team, whose defense is better suited guarding perimeter scorers. Whatever was going on with the Magic last time seems to have passed, for now, and this meeting is in Orlando, where the Magic are 10-6 on the season. The Sixers are 7-4 on the road.
Wednesday's game will present another good test for the 20-9 Sixers, and a win this time would indeed be impressive.