After a day of recharging and presumably enjoying some delicious holiday-themed fare, the 9-9 Philadelphia 76ers will play the second leg of their three-game road trip against the 5-13 Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Both teams are clearly understaffed. Philadelphia are without James Harden (right foot tendon strain), Joel Embiid (left metatarsal sprain), Tyrese Maxey (left foot fracture), Matisse Thybulle (left ankle tenosynovitis) and Jaden Springer (right quadriceps strain). Meanwhile, the Magic will be without Cole Anthony (right internal oblique tear), Markelle Fultz (broken left big toe) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury).
Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia strain) and Chuma Okeke (left knee pain) are listed as doubtful. Head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters that it will be a game-time decision. However, Orlando welcomes its rising star, rookie Paolo Banchero, who missed the last seven games with a sprained left ankle.
Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke didn’t go through a shootaround this morning and will decide tonight’s game against the 76ers, according to Jamahl Mosley.
— Khobi Price (@khobi_price) November 25, 2022
The Sixers are 10th in net rating (up-1.7), 19th in offense rating (111.5), and fifth in defensive rating (109.8). Orlando is 25th net rated (-3.6), 24th offensively rated (110.3), and 22nd defensively rated (113.9).
There is a clear break in style at play here. The Magic’s starting lineup is gigantic. Banchero (6’10”), Carter (6’10”), Franz Wagner (6’10”) and Bol Bol (7’2″) are significantly taller than any of the Philadelphia starters, who are believed to be led by the 6 – Foot-7 Montrezl Harrell and Tobias Harris. Orlando is seventh in fringe frequency, so the 24th-ranked offensive might look better in this case if they can successfully use the size advantage in their favor.
However, depth of cover was an issue and this youth-dominated side 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 and producing fast-break opportunities. Melton has 12 steals in his last three games and Reed has six. The Sixers’ offense has mostly been a stroke since Harden left the lineup, and igniting easier chances should be a priority. They have the staff to do this, and Orlando will support that effort.
The Magic offensive is led by its Jumbo creators, Banchero and Wagner, who win in different ways. Banchero is a powerful downhill force that combines power, explosiveness and a fluid grip to carve its way into the paint. Wagner slaloms around defenders, relying on his length and touch. I would expect Harris and PJ Tucker to approach these duties defensively, with Tucker on Banchero and Harris on Wagner. That could be a problem for Philadelphia, since Wagner tends to use screens more than Banchero and Harris isn’t a particularly frugal screen navigator.
I also have no idea what the Sixers are doing against Bol. He’s an enormous cutter, using his galloping stride and 7ft 8 wingspan to find space folds to overwhelm defenses for seamless buckets. He’s seven inches taller than any of Philadelphia’s tallest starters. The 6ft 9 Reed is likely to come off the bench as the top rotation option, and it’s still five inches south of Bol. If Carter Jr. is playing, his perimeter skills will cause problems for Harrell as well. There are a number of mismatches. It is all the more important for the Sixers to turn Orlando frequently.
In the two games without Harden, Maxey and Embiid, Philadelphia’s offense relied on shooting from Shake Milton, Melton and Harris, with the latter two working off the dribbling. Orlando’s length could pose challenges for these two guards. I’m curious how the Sixers counter that. Also, there isn’t a clear option in Magic’s starting unit for Harris to play bullying against, which has been a focus of his approach this week. Orlando’s defensive cohesion hasn’t been crisp so far and offers a lead to the Sixers’ success.
The substitute benches on both sides are rather sporadic. That could be a focal point for both teams to turn the game in the right direction.
The Sixers and Magic will be taking the stage in a few hours. They will do the same two days later. By then we’ll have a much better idea of how they fit together, at least the way they’re currently constructed, injuries and all.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers against Orlando Magic
When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The fanatic