On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers followed up their finest victory of the season with one of their worst, blowing a 21-point lead, falling to the Orlando Magic and snapping a seven-game winning streak. They’ll get a chance at redemption Wednesday when they face Orlando again at 7 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Center.
The 32-17 Sixers enter this contest sixth in net rating (plus-3.4), ninth in offensive rating (116.3) and seventh in defensive rating (112.9). The 20-31 Magic are 25th (minus-3.1), 26th (111.8) and 18th (114.9) in those respective categories. Over its past 26 games, Philadelphia is 21-5 with the league’s fourth-best net rating (plus-5.8), top-ranked offense (120.7) and 13th-ranked defense (114.9). Orlando has also been quite solid over its past 26 games, going 15-11 after a 5-20 start.
Joel Embiid is listed as questionable with left foot soreness, as has become the common pre-game designation lately. Nobody else besides G League assignees is mentioned on Philadelphia’s injury report. For the Magic, Wendell Carter Jr. is questionable because of right foot plantar fascia strain. Chuma Okeke is out due to left knee surgery.
In Monday’s defeat, the Sixers were plagued by scattered open floor defense, turnovers and offensive rebounds. Midway through the first half, the Magic realized dialing up the tempo was an easy path to buckets and exploited that. Over 22 percent of their possessions came in transition (95th percentile), where they generated 136.4 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Philadelphia struggled with Orlando’s length and frenetic rotations, while also carelessly surrendering the ball a handful of times, all of which explain those meager 19 fourth-quarter points. Its 18.1 percent turnover rate (19 total turnovers) ranked in the 16th percentile. Embiid was the leading culprit with six giveaways. Shake Milton also committed three during his 17 minutes.
Keeping the Magic off the glass is paramount. They collected 15 offensive rebounds, headlined by five from Franz Wagner — who repeatedly ducked inside unguarded — and Carter’s four. Philadelphia is 19th in defensive rebounding rate and Orlando is 19th in offensive rebounding rate, so that shouldn’t be an area it holds a massive edge. However, the size discrepancy between the two frontlines is evident and clearly benefited the Magic on Monday. Deciphering a way to counter that on both ends would behoove the Sixers in this one.
Similarly, limiting Markelle Fultz’s dribble penetration would be a tremendous boon defensively. While the former Sixer shot just 4-of-14 in the first matchup this week, he repeatedly drove the lane to create for others and racked up 10 assists to zero turnovers. Preventing Moe Wagner, who scored 22 points, including 10-of-10 at the charity stripe Monday, from attacking the paint is another priority. The reserve center gave the Sixers’ interior defense, Embiid among them, major problems.
In general, fouls posed complications for Philadelphia. Orlando went to the line for 30 free throws and ranks fourth in free throw rate this year. The Sixers logged 23 attempts and are fifth in free throw rate. They committed 25 fouls to Orlando’s 16.
Over the past couple months, the Magic have been playing pretty good ball. But Wednesday is the sort of contest Philadelphia should nab, especially given the daunting 12-game stretch that begins Sunday on the road against the New York Knicks. We’ll soon see how the Sixers respond to another lengthy winning streak coming to a halt, as they eye revenge against this plucky, rising Orlando squad.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic
When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic