The Orlando Magic, led by their second unit, upended the Miami Heat on opening night in the Amway Center, forwarding the impression that the rebuilding years may be approaching the back end of their tenure.
However, reality came crashing back down to earth on Friday night, as the Magic could not find the bottom of the net against Steve Clifford’s old pals, the Charlotte Hornets.
Led by Kemba Walker’s 26 points, and his cohorts, the Hornets would hit 45% of their 38 three-pointers, assist on 32 of their 43 makes, and out-rebound the “Victorious B.I.G” and the Magic by 14, 64-50.
However, the most telling story was the regression of the Magic offense that limited its actions, ball watched, went iso far too often, and generally resembled the Frank Vogel squad from one year ago.
Clifford doesn’t mind shots not falling (38% from the field, 19% from three), but like he said to his squad in the first quarter, you can’t make it easy on them.
So the Magic look to rebound from their efforts tonight in Philadelphia against the respondent Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who surrendered to the Boston Celtics late in the fourth on opening night, 105-87.
The 76ers would closer resemble their winning ways of yesteryear with an explosive second and third quarter on Friday night against the Chicago Bulls, 127-108. The 76ers allowed 41 points in the first quarter to the Zach Lavine and Jabari Parker led Bulls,
Simmons led the squad with a triple-double (13/11/11), and the scoring was once again paced by Joel Embiid (30 points, 12 rebounds).
Magic fans and 76ers fans should be delighted by another go-round between Embiid and Magic’s sixth overall pick, Mo Bamba, who have gone head-to-head physically, verbally and even social media-y.
Oh man Embiid already ended Mo Bamba’s career pic.twitter.com/7TDhCHR61i— LastWordHoops (@LastWordHoops) June 29, 2018
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR MO BAMBA OVER JOEL EMBIID!!!!— Be Magic Or Be Gone! (@BeORLMagic) October 1, 2018
However, the story in Philadelphia has been last year’s overall selection, Markelle Fultz, who has earned the favor of the hostile crowd in his first two starts. Fultz had 12 points and five assists in a win over the Bulls, but in the first two games combined has shot just 7-for-22 (31.8%).
”It makes me feel better for the whole crowd to feel as good as I want to,” Fultz said.
”He shot it to mean it,” coach Brett Brown said. “He didn’t look afraid of anything. He missed the shots but they looked good.”
Expect Fultz to start, but former Magic sharp hooter JJ Reddick to close. Former would-be Magic big man Dario Saric will roam the paint alongside Embiid and First Team All-Defensive man Robert Covington will likely chase Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Finally, Magic fans will get a good dose of the first-round pick (26th), Landry Shamet who scored 12 points on Friday night.
For the 76ers, Mike Muscala (ankle), Wilson Chandler (hamstring), Zhaire Smith, and Jarryd Bayless (knee) will likely be held out.
Follow Preston Ellis @PrestonEllis on Twitter, and the OPP podcast @DYBinMagic