It's still 30 minutes before tip off of tonight's game, 76ers (7-7) vs. Orlando Magic (10-4), but already the Wachovia Center has more energy than it has for any game this season. It could be the rows of folks behind the Magic bench hoping for a glimpse of the Superman that is Dwight Howard, but that is neither here nor there.
Tonight's game, in my opinion, is pivotal for the Sixers. I use the word pivotal on purpose, because, like a pivot in basketball, I think it can have the Sixers facing many different directions. Tonight's game isn't a "must-win." No. It's just pivotal. I think it could shift the Sixers in the direction they want to go, or it could send them further down the path they seem to be walking.
Let's look at the details:
Sixers starters: Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Samuel Dalembert
Magic starters: Anthony Johnson (Jameer Nelson is out with a strained right hip flexor), Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, Hedo Turkoglu, and Dwight Howard.
Score of the first meeting (Nov. 6 at Orlando): Magic, 98-88.
In that first game, the Sixers trailed big, early, then made a run in the second half. In the Sixers most recent game, that much-talked-about loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Sixers allowed too many good looks from the 3-point line. If the Bobcats can get those looks and make them, you better believe the Magic (with Turkoglu) will take similar advantage. The open 3-pointer is the result of poor defense at the top of the key. It comes from allowing the ball handler to split the pick-and-roll defense. If the Sixers can contain that ball handler and not allow immediate ball reversal, perhaps force the point back to the same side, that will go a long way toward improving their defense.
But those are x's and o's. Overall, the Sixers need to just play harder and with more communication. Things will break down on both offense and defense. Good teams readjust in the middle of a broken play and make it work.
Quick note: Notice the photos. Those photos are from the new Blackberry Storm. Notice the additional quality of the picture (I speak of megapixel, not of improved photography. I still take awful photos. But now you can more clearly see how bad they are. Thank you Research In Motion).
Seven minutes to tip. Enjoy the game on ESPN(HD, if you're lucky ...)