The last time the Sixers and Orlando faced each other on January 30 at the Wells Fargo Center, the Magic were without point guard Jameer Nelson and shooter Jason Rhichardson due to injury. The Sixers limited the Magic's offense that night 33.3 percent shooting in the 74-69 win, a game in which the Magic scored 18 points in the final 2 minutes and 40 seconds just to get to their 69.
The Sixers did a good job of bottling up superstar Dwight Howard that night, limiting him to just 17 points. The Sixers threw body after body on Howard, taking turns with Elton Brand, Tony Battie and Lavoy Allen.
Tonight they'll look to do much of the same, and they'll also have Nikola Vucevic available. Vucevic didn't see any time in the first contest. Battie rolled his ankle at yesterday's optional practice, so he might not be able to go tonight. That could hurt the team as he does a very good job of defending against Howard, a former teammate in Orlando.
"You have to switch things up on him," said Brand of the coverage on Howard. "They have so many great shooters out there on that team so you have to switch it up on him a bit to keep them guessing. We have to take away their layups, Dwight Howard's easy dunks, putbacks, shots of that nature. And then those open three-point shot that they get with hockey assists - pass, pass, open three's."
Brand said he was feeling refreshed at this morning's shootaround as he decided to rest instead of attending yesterday's workout.
"I got in some cardio and relaxed a little bit, get the legs back a little bit. It was a good day off," he said. "It's been a tough season, we don't get a lot of days off so it was a good one."
Coach Doug Collins will need a fresh Brand tonight to deal with Howard, who is averaging 20.2 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
"Last time we caught the Magic it was sort of a perfect storm for them," said Collins. "They were going through a tough time. They had a couple of halves where they had not played to their potential. Jameer was out, Jason Richardson was out. I think it was their sixth game in eight nights. So we caught them at the perfect time. You watch the tape and what we thought was the terrific defensive game for us was as much as they didn't have their energy and didn't play so well. We're going to thave to play a lot better tonight. I always thought that Jameer Nelson was the guy that made this team go. He gets them three-point shots, he penetrates, he gets the ball inside to Dwight. Obviously Dwight is the focal point. When he gets that ball in the paint he collapses your defense, now you get the three-point shooting. If you foul him too much you get in the penalty too early. But Jameer Nelson, we consider him one of the elite point guards in the NBA."
Collins said that Lavoy Allen will remain in the starting lineup tonight.
More to come...
Check out our other posts on Spencer Hawes likely being out until after the All-Star break and Jodie Meeks missing out on the three-point contest.