"Trust the process."
There’s an alternate universe out there where the Orlando Magic, having faithfully adhered to this mantra, are occupying the playoff-contending position currently held by the Philadelphia 76ers. Maybe they refused to give up on Victor Oladipo, whose emergence as an All-Star could be happening in Florida instead of Indiana. Maybe they resisted the urge to splash millions of dollars on free agent acquisitions that haven’t moved the needle. Maybe the ping pong balls bounced slightly differently and the roster now contains a bona fide franchise guy to build around.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Instead, here the team is, six years into a neverending rebuild and fresh off a dispiriting home loss to the New York Knicks. Despite the return of both Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic to the lineup, as well as an absurdly hot-shooting opening quarter that resulted in 41 points, the Magic managed to choke away the contest with a stagnant fourth quarter offense and an error-ridden defensive effort. Philadelphia, by comparison, have strung together six straight victories across the All-Star break and are looking evermore like a playoff certainty.
This is the second of three meetings between the teams this season, and the Magic will be looking to even the ledger after getting pummeled last time to the tune of a 130-111 beatdown. Orlando let the 76ers shoot over 50% from the field for the game, including an absurd 16 of 34 from downtown. Frustratingly it was ghosts of Magic past that haunted the team the most during this contest, with JJ Redick and Dario Saric pacing the opposition.
An extra wrinkle for tonight’s game is the fact that this is the first time the Magic will be seeing the potential rookie of the year Ben Simmons in action. He failed to dress last time the teams met, so Orlando will need to be wary of his potent playmaking (11th in the league in assist percentage) and his excellent ability to finish plays at the hoop (he converts at an almost LeBron-like level when within 3 feet). He’s been as good as advertised as a rookie, and recently even managed to take center stage in Australian politics (hey, we do things differently out here).
Oh, and there’s also this guy you may have heard of by the name of Joel Embiid.
Be sure to dive in and join both the pre and in-game discussion below!