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-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.