The Philadelphia 76ers are going to have wait a little longer to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They lost to the Miami Heat, 106-94, on Thursday night, struggling in a variety of ways. Of course, some of their underwhelming effort can probably be attributed to the fact that they can wait to win one of two games against the Orlando Magic to lock up the No. 1 seed. There was also no reason for the Sixers to reveal any tactical advantages (such as having Ben Simmons guard Jimmy Butler) against a potential playoff opponent. But even still, some of Philly’s flaws were on display.
Besides some defensive lapses, only shooting 7-of-25 from three, and giving up 15 offensive rebounds, the Sixers showed their playmaking limitations against the Heat’s aggressive defensive pressure. Miami also threw quick, well executed double teams at Joel Embiid, which gave him minimal time to make decisions and helped hold him to 3-of-9 shooting for just his second single-digit scoring performance (6 points) of the season. It was a rough game for a Sixers starting unit that’s been excellent when together this season.
Fortunately for the Sixers, though, they have a chance to pick up their last win for the No. 1 seed on Friday against the 21-49 Magic, who are down to 14th in the East and rank 29th in net rating at -9 for the season.
Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz were both able to return against the Heat, but Matisse Thybulle remained out due to left hand swelling. The Magic also played on Thursday, with Mo Bamba (non-COVID illness), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle sprain), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Chuma Okeke (left ankle sprain), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), Terrence Ross (back spasms) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee recovery) all out, along with Markelle Fultz who remains out with an ACL tear. If the Magic are heavily depleted again on Friday, the Sixers will have even more of an advantage.
Dwight Howard will likely be out for Friday’s game after picking up his 16th technical against the Heat.
After trading Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at the trade deadline, the Magic are all in on youth, some new first-round draft picks, and the future. Wendell Carter Jr. has had the chance to take on a large, starting role since joining the team as part of the Vucevic trade, while rookies like Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton (the latter being acquired in the Gordon deal) have both been able to up their scoring recently. With the 26th-ranked defense, 29th-ranked offense, and so little firepower after moving on from Vucevic, Orlando should be completely outmatched against Philly. The Magic have lost five straight, with a 6-20 record overall since the trade deadline.
Even though the Sixers are coming off an ugly loss and, like the Magic, will be on the second night of a back-to-back, this should be a very winnable matchup. Not to mention the fact that they should be motivated to take care of this game quickly to avoid any unnecessary pressure in their regular season finale against the Magic on Sunday.
Who: Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 8:00 pm ET, May 14th
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic