|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|November 6th, 2008|
|Andre Miller||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Andre Iguodala||SG||Mickael Pietrus|
|Thaddeus Young||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Elton Brand||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Samuel Dalembert||C||Dwight Howard|
UPDATE: Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer has anointed this game tonight's "Game to pay attention to." Meanwhile, Liberty Ballers picks the Magic to win, 146-75. Losing to the Heat will do that to a fan, I suppose.
The Orlando Magic will face the thoughest test of their young season tonight when they play the Philadelhpia 76ers, a team that came on strong during the second half of last season and scored the biggest free-agent addition this summer with the signing of Elton Brand. So far, the 76ers have underperformed. They dropped a 106-83 decision last night in South Beach, shooting 41.0% (eFG) and committing 25 turnovers in a 96-possession game; perhaps they're struggling to integrate Brand into their offense. However, they aren't going to shoot so poorly over the course of an entire season, and they'll be especially hungry for a win tonight after last night's embarrassment.
The Magic know as much, just as they know they aren't playing to the best of their ability. Brian Schmitz thinks it's pressure of living up to early-season expectations that's hurting them. Whatever it is, they need to get over it tonight. A national TV audience will be watching for them for the first time since the Detroit Pistons eliminated them from the Playoffs in May. The defining play of that game was Tayshaun Prince's incredible block of Hedo Turkoglu's driving dunk attempt in the final minute. One could make the pop-psychological argument that Turk hasn't played the same since that moment. He's scoring 15.5 points per game this year, down from 19.5 last season, his shooing is down 10 percentage points, and his three-point shooting is down 13 points. He also shot poorly in international competition this summer, although his playmaking and leadership were superb as usual. Understandably, the Magic are worried, says John Denton.
More on the game after the jump.
Luckily, if there's any team against which Turk can get it going, it's Philadelphia. Last year, he eviscerated the 76ers for 22.5 points per game on 52% shooting, 63% three-point shooting, and 96% free throw shooting. What's more, he added 5.3 rebounds and 7 assists per game. The Magic will need him to make the difference tonight, as Philadelphia's beefed-up its interior defense stands a chance of slowing down Dwight Howard, while Rashard Lewis will likely expend most of his energy on the defensive end trying to keep the stout Brand out of the post.
Oh, and they'll need to count on point guards Jameer Nelson and Anthony Johnson, too. Andre Miller and his backup, Louis Williams, give the Magic trouble because of their size and speed, respectively. Indeed, the 76ers match-up well with the Magic. Hoepfully, Mickael Pietrus, Orlando's own free-agent signee, will be able to keep Andre Iguodala in check. Iguodala re-signed with Philadelphia for 6 years and $80 million, which is probably $20 million too much to pay for a slightly above-average swingman with no jumpshot. Liberty Ballers, SB Nation's 76ers blog, probably disagrees. But I digress.
If you're hoping that J.J. Redick will find his way back into the rotation tonight, as I suspected he might, you'll probably be sorely disappointed. Schmitz says that Stan Van Gundy has no plans to shake-up his rotation any further, and that Courtney Lee has earned playing time. Bummer for J.J., but congratulations to Courtney.
Tip's at 8 on TNT. Go Magic.