Coming off a hard-fought loss to the Warriors Saturday night, the Sixers aim to add a ‘W1’ to the end of the standings at home against the Orlando Magic. The teams have split their first two meetings this season, with each club winning on its home court. Tonight, Philadelphia fans will get a long look at a former Sixers first-round pick who was in trade discussions leading up to the trade deadline.
Needless to say, I’m talking about Nikola Vucevic. The former USC Trojan made his first All-Star team this season, averaging 20.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1 steal, and 1.2 blocks. He was excellent in the two previous games against Philadelphia this season, scoring 27 and 30 points. With Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic both out due to knee-related matters, it will be up to Jonah Bolden to defend without fouling and make sure Voose doesn’t get loose.
With about a quarter of the regular season remaining, Orlando has plenty to play for, currently ahead by percentage points in a practical three-way tie with Charlotte and Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot. Rather than spin them into future assets in the lead-up to the trade deadline, the Magic held on to upcoming free agents Vucevic and Terrence Ross in an all-in push to make the postseason.
Of course, one deal the Magic did make was sending Jonathon Simmons and future draft picks to Philadelphia for Markelle Fultz. That move was a forward-thinking move, as the first overall pick in the 2017 draft remains out with (well, you know what he’s out with), and it looks like things will remain that way through the rest of the season.
Steve Clifford earlier today on SiriusXM NBA Radio when asked if we will see Markelle Fultz this season: pic.twitter.com/G1dMtQ7rfd— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) March 4, 2019
While I wish the best for Markelle moving forward, I must admit it sure is nice to no longer worry about that whole saga on a daily basis. I can only imagine what a weight removed it was from the Sixers’ perspective.
Nevertheless, the Sixers are in a heated standings race of their own. With Boston increasingly in disarray, Philadelphia has a (we’ll call it) comfortable 2.5-game lead for fourth place in the East. All sights should be set on the Pacers, still just a half-game above Philadelphia after losing to Orlando at home Saturday. We’ll see if reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Ben Simmons and company have better luck than Indiana did against the Magic tonight.
Who: (40-23) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (30-35) Orlando Magic
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: The Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Jimmy Butler - lower back tightness (probable); Joel Embiid - knee (out); Boban Marjanovic - knee (out); Furkan Korkmaz - knee (out); Amir Johnson - back (questionable); Zhaire Smith - on assignment in G League (out); Shake Milton - finger (out)
Orlando: Timofey Mozgov - knee (out); Markelle Fultz - shoulder (out); Mo Bamba - leg (out)