Sixers-Magic: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Magic: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (6-9) get back to action Wednesday night on the road against the Orlando Magic (5-9), who snapped a four-game skid with a win on Tuesday.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (TCN) at Amway Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Hey, rookie
Michael Carter-Williams will take the floor on Wednesday coming off his best game as a pro, and a former college rival will be trying to prevent the point guard from a repeat performance.

Carter-Williams had 29 points, seven steals, six rebounds and three assists in the Sixers’ loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. He helped carry the shorthanded Sixers in a tight matchup against the Eastern Conference’s top team.

MCW will square off against fellow rookie Victor Oladipo, the draft’s second overall selection, on Wednesday night. Oladipo got the best of Carter-Williams the last time the two guards squared off on the court. He scored 24 points to MCW’s 11, including the game-winning basket in a 90-89 Magic win during the Orlando Pro Summer League.

Carter-Williams can always lean on the fact that his Syracuse squad eliminated Oladipo’s Indiana team from last year’s NCAA tournament, with the 11th pick in April’s draft scoring 24 points of his own in the victory.

Carter-Williams has also had the upper hand so far in the NBA. He is averaging 17.3 points, 7.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals for the Sixers.

On the other hand, Oladipo is averaging 12.7 points and holds the league’s third-worst turnover mark with 4.1. However, he has scored at least 17 points in three of four games since joining Orlando’s starting lineup.

The pair of rookies should create quite a matchup on the perimeter in this one.

2. You look familiar
While the Sixers will be getting their first regular-season look at Oladipo, they’ve seen plenty of what Nikola Vucevic can do on the court.

The former Sixer has thrived in Orlando since being traded to the Magic as a part of the Andrew Bynum deal. Since being dealt, Vucevic is averaging 13.9 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. Vucevic’s 11.0 rebounds per game this season rank fifth in the league.

In three previous games against the Sixers, Vucevic has averaged 11.7 points and 16.7 rebounds.

The Sixers must hope Spencer Hawes is back in the lineup to help the league’s fifth-ranked rebounding team combat Vucevic on the boards.

Of course, Vucevic isn’t the only familiar face on the Magic roster. Swingman Maurice Harkless was also drafted by the Sixers before being shipped away in the Bynum deal, and St. Joe’s product Jameer Nelson is in his 10th season at point guard for Orlando.

3. This could get ugly
With the Sixers leading the league in pace (102.4 possessions per game) and the Magic at 10th (98.9 possessions per game), this game will likely be played at warp speed.

That also sets the stage for a potentially sloppy encounter. Both teams are tied for 26th in the NBA with 17.8 turnovers per game.

The Sixers have a whopping 60 turnovers in their last three games.

4. Injuries
Tony Wroten (back) is expected to return for the Sixers on Wednesday after missing Saturday’s game (see story). Hawes (knee), who also missed the loss to the Pacers, could be available against the Magic. He is officially day-to-day.

Thaddeus Young (personal reasons) has missed the Sixers’ last three games.

Nerlens Noel (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Jason Richardson (knee) are all out.

Orlando’s Tobias Harris (ankle) and Kyle O’Quinn (ankle) are day-to-day.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 20 of the last 24 to the Magic, including 10 of 11 in Orlando.

• The Magic had lost 17 straight on the road before beating Atlanta on Tuesday night.

• Orlando has lost three straight home games.

• Carter-Williams leads all rookies with four double-doubles.

• Evan Turner has averaged just 7.1 points over his career against the Magic.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”