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Sixers vs Magic: Game Preview

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Jimmy Butler is here.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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Oh, and there’s a basketball game tonight.

The Sixers (9-6) open the Jimmy Butler era with a road game against the Orlando Magic (6-8). The Magic are a surprisingly frisky team this year, winning four of their last six games. Of course, those four wins came against the Spurs (who are not bad!), the Cavaliers (who are bad!), the Knicks (also bad!), and the Wizards (shouldn’t be bad, but are bad!), so don’t read too much into that. Even with changes to the starting lineup, Philadelphia should be favored in this one.

Speaking of changes to the starting lineup...

The math on that? Only two of those five players opened the season as starters for the 76ers, and while Butler and Wilson Chandler making it into there is the result of the trade that sent Butler to Philly and Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota, there’s one other change here to take note of: JJ Redick is back in the starting lineup, and Markelle Fultz is headed to the bench.

Fultz’s shot has been much maligned this year, but one of the more telling reasons why he’ll be coming off the bench is this: he’s far more effective when not sharing the court with Ben Simmons. When the duo are on court, the team has a 97.9 offensive rating. Among two-man combinations that have played at least 100 minutes, that offensive rating ranks pretty close to the bottom, with only four worse pairings: Embiid/McConnell, Johnson/Simmons, Saric/Shamet (RIP), and Muscala/Fultz. It’s hard to justify using the two together during the important moments early in games.

If you’re going to make that change, tonight was the best night for it, as the introduction of Jimmy Butler into things shifts your focus. Before, the Sixers were a good NBA team that was still feeling out their path to contending in the East and needed to develop Fultz more; now, they’re a team with a chance to win the East who’ll let Fultz be who he is with the second unit.

All eyes will rightfully be on Butler tonight. Take a few minutes to go read the following pieces on Butler from the Liberty Ballers staff (and one from the main SB Nation site:

Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers need each other, now more than ever

Reviewing the Jimmy Butler Trade: Let Us Celebrate

What Does the Jimmy Butler Trade Mean for Markelle Fultz?

How Jimmy Butler fits with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

...

Who’s ready for this game? Can this new Sixers lineup mesh immediately and get the win? Is this the kind of game where you accidentally overlook the Magic and they sneak out the win? Is Landry Shamet going to begin his crusade for Sixth Man of the Year?

Game Info:

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 the Fanatic

Twitter: @Liberty_Ballers