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.

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

The Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic on Friday was not the game to watch for those looking for competitive basketball, as the Magic needed just three quarters to put the game out of reach (see Instant Replay).

What the game did have was some of the NBA’s top young talent.

Friday night featured six first-round picks from the 2014 NBA draft. Joel Embiid (No. 3), Aaron Gordon (No. 4), Nik Stauskas (No. 8), Elfrid Payton (No. 10) and Dario Saric (No. 12) were all lottery selections in 2014.

Add in Sixers center Jahlil Okafor and Magic guard Mario Hezonja, who were both top-five picks in 2015, and that’s seven top-12 picks from the last three draft classes, not even counting the injured Ben Simmons.

“Basketball’s a small world, you grow up playing these guys," Gordon said of the Sixers. "Those guys are talented. They have a young group of guys that are going to get better and better each time they play.”

Though he played only 27 minutes, Embiid finished the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists for the Sixers (see story). Okafor had a double-double of his own, adding 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Gordon, who is averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, led the Magic with 20 points and also added two rebounds.

“He did pretty good,” Embiid said of Gordon. “He shot the ball pretty well tonight.”

The other four lottery selections struggled a bit. Payton played 24 minutes and finished with two points and four assists, while Hezonja missed both of his shot attempts in just three minutes of playing time.

Stauskas went scoreless, going 0 for 6 from the floor, finishing with five assists and three turnovers, while Saric went 1 for 5 from the field and turned the ball over twice

“It’s just about being patient, really,” Stauskas said. “We know our time will come eventually. It’s just about being patient and continuing to work hard, whether it’s next year or the year after, eventually things are going to click and this team is going to become a legit playoff team in the East, it’s just a matter of time before it happens.”

Even with a plethora of top-round talent, the Magic have struggled over the past two seasons, much like the Sixers. Orlando hadn't won more than 25 games in a season since 2012-13 before going 35-47 last year.

Despite the abundance of talent, both teams are waiting for their players to develop. Both the Sixers and Magic entered Friday’s game among the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference. If their draft choices pan out, it wouldn't be surprising to see the two teams closer to the top of the conference and right in the thick of the playoff race in a few years. 

“Eventually they’re going to get there,” Magic center Bismack Biyombo said of the Sixers. “Like all young teams, you go through struggles before you face success. That’s just how life is. They have to learn the hard way. We’ve all been through the process like that but you always have to stay patient and see a great future ahead. Obviously they have a lot of talented kids that sooner or later, they’ll know more about the league and establish themselves.”