The Orlando Magic hope to have Markelle Fultz back as they get a second shot at the undermanned Philadelphia 76ers and a chance to get a home win.
Orlando Magic (5-14) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (10-9)
Time/TV: 6 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Magic by 2
Tickets: $16-$2,410 on StubHub
Season Series: 76ers 107, Magic 99 in Orlando on Nov. 25; Nov. 27 in Orlando; Jan. 30 in Philadelphia; Feb. 1 in Philadelphia
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Orlando Magic fans were frustrated following Friday’s loss to the undermanned Philadelphia 76ers. And there is a good reason for it. The Magic had a chance to take advantage of an undermanned team with their star rookie back and the team looked passive and willing to let the game come to them.
The veteran 76ers knew exactly who they are and what they had to do and played like it, taking it to the young Magic. Orlando was staggered and never recovered once the offense dried up in the third quarter.
The Magic will get a second chance against this team. Joel Embiid is out again as he has not recovered from his mid-foot sprain. Or maybe the 76ers feel confident they can win and compete against the Magic without him and can steal an extra day.
Regardless of Philadelphia’s motivations, Orlando needs to learn that lesson and play with more urgency and aggression. That is something this young team is missing. A shot of confidence perhaps may come from Markelle Fultz’s return from injury as he is listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game, signaling an imminent debut.
3 Keys To Watch
Battle on the boards
The biggest sore thumb that stood out from Friday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was the way the Sixers took advantage of their work on the offensive glass. Orlando struggled on the board and it seemed all of their momentum got stunted by a timely offensive rebound and second-chance point.
The Sixers had 13 offensive rebounds for just 17 second-chance points. But eight offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points in the second half. At crucial moments the Sixers were the first to the ball and squeezed out these little plays.
There is no doubt the Magic’s rebounding has taken a dive since Wendell Carter exited the lineup with a plantar fascia strain (he is listed as QUESTIONABLE once again for Sunday’s game).
Mo Bamba tallied just four rebounds in Friday’s loss. Orlando has a defensive rebound rate of 68.9 percent in the last five games. That is at the bottom of the league.
And this team cannot lose those points in the margins.
Drive to Survive
Orlando Magic fans are eager to see Markelle Fultz back on the court as he gets closer to his return. The biggest thing Markelle Fultz will bring to the team is the ability to move scorers like Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner off the ball.
More importantly, Fultz will be able to pass out of those drives, something both Wagner and Banchero has struggled with.
Orlando has taken its driving to overdrive individually with Wagner and Banchero leading the way. But the team is struggling to get consistently in the pace outside of those two players.
The Magic are still 18th in the league with 43.4 drives per game according to data from Second Spectrum. They score 29.4 points per game off those drives, 11th in the league, with just 3.0 assists per game off drives.
Last year, the Magic were fifth in the league with 49.2 drives per game. This is certainly an area Orlando wants to continue improving this year. And adding Fultz will be a big boost. He was second on the team in drives per game behind only Cole Anthony last year. Fultz can be a major engine for the roster.
You’re open, so shoot it
The Orlando Magic want their players to shoot. They are not afraid of taking 3-pointers even if they lack knockdown shooters. The team might be a bit more selective with its 3-point shot selection — 25th in the league with 31.3 3-point attempts per game — but the team is not afraid to let it fly.
They just need to make them.
The Magic are taking 11.1 3-point field goal attempts per game with the closest defender 4-6 feet away. That is near the bottom of the league. But Orlando is making just 31.9 percent on those supposedly good 3-point looks. The Magic though get more of the good looks with the closest defender six-plus feet away — 16.2 attempts per game at 36.8 percent.
This would mean more than half of the Magic’s 3-point attempts are coming with the shooter wide open. It is just about making defenses pay for leaving them that wide open — the top shooting team in this metric is the Denver Nuggets at 44.4 percent.
Orlando cannot be afraid to shoot it. But the team just needs to make some more of these open looks. With how tight the Magic’s margins are for this team, that little bit could be a big difference.
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