I write this blog outside of my Orlando hotel where it is 80 and sunny, and where the Sixers hope to steal another game from the Magic, just like they did here last month.
For the first time this season, the Sixers have won two-straight close games, the last coming in overtime on Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats. The wins certainly weren't pretty, but wins are the only result the Sixers care about as they are now in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
Here are some keys if the Sixers hope to end the Magic's six-game winning streak at the new Amway Center.
*Pick the poison and stick to it. With the additions of Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, along with mainstays J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson, the Magic present a lethal perimeter game. They also have Dwight Howard down low, and all he's done over the past four games is average 29.3 points and 15 rebounds. Whatever coach Doug Collins sees more important to stop, inside our outside, the Sixers need to do that.
*Get off to a good start. For some inexplicable reason, as coach Stan Van Gundy said this morning, the Magic are falling into a bad habit of starting games slowly. They've trailed after the first quarter in five of the last six games. Also, Orlando is coming off a five-game road swing. That first game back is always tough for the home team.
*Play confidently down the stretch. The Magic lost three of their five road games by a total of seven points, failing to make big stops down the stretch. That messes with a team's confidence - as the Sixers know all too well. If the Sixers can keep the game close near the end, they'll be putting Orlando in a spot it doesn't want to be in.
*Feed Lou Williams. In Monday's win over Charlotte, sub Lou Williams scored 23 points, all in the second half, including the game-tying three-pointer that put the game into overtime. So far this season when Williams scores 20 or more points the team is 5-1. He has scored 20 or more in four of the past six games, all wins.
*Go right at Dwight Howard. Van Gundy mentioned this morning that he felt as if Howard were playing defense so not to get in foul trouble, something that has plagued him his whole career. If that is the case, the Sixers should take the ball right at him. If Spencers Hawes can hit some jump shot early to get Howard away from the basket, Elton Brand should be able to attack. Brand had 20 points and 13 rebounds the last time the two teams played.
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