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Magic vs. 76ers preview: This is the end

The Magic won’t be going to the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean that the outcome of game 72 isn’t important

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic - NBA Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

There’s no existential uncertainty to be found in Orlando right now — the Magic must close the season not with a bang, but a whimper.

As it stands the Magic sport a record of 21-50, tied for the third-worst mark in the league. if that how it shakes out they’ll enter the lottery with a 48% chance of picking in the top four. An errant win could see the side slip all the way to the sixth-best odds, slicing the chance of a selection in the top four to just 37%.

At this point, any reduction in odds would be calamitous for a side that desperately needs a dose of good luck.

It’s been a long time since the ping pong balls of the lottery bounced in Orlando’s favor. From the fandom’s perspective, late season victories of the meaningless kind frustratingly made any such flush of fortune a slightly less likely outcome. It’s impossible to know precisely the proverbial straw but, irrefutably, the numbers don’t lie: a better chance is a better chance, and the Magic need to grab any helping hand that they can reach.

Some scoreboard watching elsewhere will also come into play this evening, with tilts involving Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota and Oklahoma City all holding interest. Ultimately, though, there’s only one result that remains an absolute necessity: a Magic loss.

It’s an outcome that’s seemingly going to be all the more difficult because of the opposition. Philadelphia, although a wildly superior team, have absolutely nothing to play for after wrapping up the Eastern Conference’s top seed in their last start. Seeing any meaningful rotation player log real minutes — and therefore risk injury — would be a jaw-dropping shock. Instead, the Magic can expect to face 48 minutes worth of a deep reserve lineup.

Orlando will themselves be judicious in who they allow to take the hardwood. Chuma Okeke, Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams, Otto Porter Jr. and James Ennis have long been shut down and won’t be back. Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba have been dicey propositions to play of late. Now even RJ Hampton is popping up on the injury report. Don’t be surprised if Cole Anthony and Gary Harris, among others, get an early shower. Coach Clifford will, rightfully, be under an edict to look all the way to the end of the bench.

Here’s hoping it’s enough. In waiting until the last moment to kickstart the latest rebuild the Magic have been at least slightly handicapped in this season’s race to the bottom of the standings. It’s imperative now that the team get the final stumble right.

A victory would just ring hollow.

Who: Orlando Magic (21-50) at Philadelphia 76ers (48-23)

When: Sunday at 7 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

TV: Bally Sports Florida