Oh, how I long for the days when my biggest concerns about the Sixers were their ability to make a simple entry pass and T.J. Warren dropping 53 points on them. With the news that Ben Simmons has a dislocated knee cap, the sigh of relief at a day-to-day designation has turned into a howl of disbelief at what will be weeks, if not likely months, without one of the Sixers’ top young stars. There’s a very real possibility that we’ve seen the last of Ben during the 2019-20 season, and with that in mind, any realistic chance at a long playoff run seems to have become little more than a pipe dream.
The Magic can sympathize with the Sixers’ plight, as they lost up-and-coming forward Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL earlier this week. The league suspending play had allowed Isaac to return this season, after he suffered a major knee injury back in January. The 22-year-old has now been severely impacted by injuries in two of his first three years as a professional.
Two other Magic regulars may miss tonight’s game as Aaron Gordon left the court Wednesday against Toronto with a hamstring injury, a game Michael Carter-Williams had sat out with a foot injury. Orlando has basically performed to expectations across their four seeding games, beating Brooklyn and Sacramento before losing to the Pacers and Raptors. The Magic sit a half-game back of the Nets for the 7-seed, although I can’t think it matters if they play Milwaukee or Toronto in the first round — either way, they seem destined for an early exit.
Of course, as far as tonight is concerned, the Magic always seem to give Philadelphia trouble, and with Simmons sidelined, all bets are off anyway. Nikola Vucevic’s ability to stretch the floor can negate Joel Embiid’s effectiveness on the defensive end to some degree by pulling him out of the paint. Honestly, Terrence Ross hitting seven 3s against the Sixers wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Even if MCW sits, we still get to see plenty of old friends between Vuc, Markelle Fultz, and James Ennis. Take your pick on who will have the most prominent Revenge Game.
The biggest thing to watch tonight will be how the Sixers reshape the rotation without Ben. Does Al Horford move back into the starting lineup? Does Brett Brown insert a wing like Furkan Korkmaz or Matisse Thybulle and slide Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris up to what are probably their natural positions? Does Ben’s absence mean too much ball-handling responsibility would fall on Shake Milton’s shoulders, so Alec Burks could be an option? A Sixers playoff lineup without Simmons wasn’t something you plan for, so we’ll likely see a few different arrangements over the next week to see what works best.
Anyway, Sixers basketball is back, as cursed as ever.
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons - out (knee); Mike Scott - questionable (knee); Zhaire Smith - out (knee); Glenn Robinson III - doubtful (hip pointer)
Orlando: Jonathan Isaac - out (torn ACL); Al-Farouq Aminu - out (knee); Michael Carter-Williams - questionable (foot); Aaron Gordon - doubtful (hamstring)
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic