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Sixers’ road trip moves to Orlando for two games against the Magic

A pair of shorthanded squads will square off Friday in Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

After a day to recharge and presumably enjoy some delectable, holiday-themed dishes, the 9-9 Philadelphia 76ers will kick off the second leg of their three-game road trip against the 5-13 Orlando Magic on Friday night.

Both teams are significantly shorthanded. Philadelphia is without James Harden (right foot tendon strain), Joel Embiid (left mid-foot sprain), Tyrese Maxey (left foot fracture), Matisse Thybulle (left ankle tenosynovitis) and Jaden Springer (right quad strain). Meanwhile, the Magic will be missing Cole Anthony (right internal oblique tear), Markelle Fultz (left big toe fracture) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery).

Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia strain) and Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) are listed as questionable. Head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters they’ll be a game-time decision. Orlando does, however, welcome back its rising star, rookie Paolo Banchero, who missed the past seven games with a sprained left ankle.

The Sixers are 10th in net rating (plus-1.7), 19th in offensive rating (111.5) and fifth in defensive rating (109.8). Orlando is 25th in net rating (minus-3.6), 24th in offensive rating (110.3) and 22nd in defensive rating (113.9).

There is a clear clash of styles at play here. The Magic’s starting lineup is ginormous. Banchero (6’10”), Carter (6’10”), Franz Wagner (6’10”) and Bol Bol (7’2”) are significantly taller than any of Philadelphia’s starters, who will presumably be headlined by the 6-foot-7 Montrezl Harrell and Tobias Harris. Orlando is seventh in rim frequency, so that 24th-ranked offense might look better in this one if it can successfully exploit the size advantage working its favor.

Its guard depth, though, has been an issue and this youth-dominated team will give the ball away. The Magic are 28th in turnover rate (16.7 percent). With defensive playmakers like De’Anthony Melton and Paul Reed in the rotation, Philadelphia should be able to mitigate the size discrepancy by turning Orlando over and producing fast-break opportunities. Melton has 12 steals over his past three games and Reed has six. The Sixers’ offense has largely been a slog since Harden exited the lineup and igniting easier chances should be a priority. They have the personnel to do it and Orlando will aid those efforts.

The Magic offense is led by its jumbo creators, Banchero and Wagner, who win in varying ways. Banchero is a powerful downhill force merging strength, explosiveness and a fluid handle to chisel his way into the paint. Wagner slaloms around defenders and relies on his length and touch. I’d expect Harris and P.J. Tucker to tackle those assignments defensively, with Tucker on Banchero and Harris on Wagner. That could be an issue for Philadelphia, though, because Wagner tends to use screens more often than Banchero and Harris is not a particularly economical screen navigator.

I also have no clue what the Sixers do against Bol. He’s a tremendous cutter who uses his loping strides and 7-foot-8 wingspan to find creases of space to overwhelm defenses for seamless buckets. He’s seven inches taller than either of Philadelphia’s tallest starters. The 6-foot-9 Reed will likely come off the bench as its tallest rotation option and he’s still five inches south of Bol. If Carter Jr. plays, his perimeter skills will give Harrell trouble, too. There are a slew of mismatches. That makes it all the more imperative for the Sixers to turn Orlando over frequently.

In the two games without Harden, Maxey and Embiid, Philadelphia’s offense has relied on shot-making from Shake Milton, Melton and Harris, with the latter two working off the dribble. Orlando’s length could pose challenges for those two guards. I’m curious to see how the Sixers counter that. Plus, there’s not a clear option in the Magic’s starting unit for Harris to play bully-ball against, which has been a focal point of his approach this week. Orlando’s defensive cohesion hasn’t been crisp thus far and presents a lane for Sixers success.

Both sides’ benches are rather sporadic. That could be a flash point for either team to turn the game its way.

The Sixers and Magic will take stage in a handful of hours. They’ll do the same two days later. By then, we’ll have a lot better idea about how they match up, at least as currently constructed, injuries and all.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic

When: 7 p.m. EST

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @LibertyBallers

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