Coming off an emotionally charged win on Wednesday in Allen Iverson’s long awaited return to Philly the 76ers showed clear signs of a let down against the Orlando Magic tonight. From the opening minutes Orlando jumped all over the Sixers, and I could tell it was just going to be one of those nights.
Orlando won the game with their league-leading 3-point attack, shooting 14-23 from beyond. That was enough to overcome the 21 turnovers the Sixers forced. On the other side, the 76ers simply could not put the ball in the hoop – from anywhere in the first half. They shot a sub-par, but not horrible, 44% for the game, but it was the disastrous first half that killed them.
- 7-22 (31.8%) – 1st Quarter
- 5-19 (26.3%) – 2nd Quarter
- 12-41 (29.3%) – First Half
When you look at that start and factor in that fact that they lived up to their NBA-worst free throw shooting (60% [15-25] for the game), it’s obvious why the final score was 113-95 in favor of the Magic.
The key to consistently beating the Orlando Magic is individual man-to-man defense. This team thrives on penetration and kick to all their 3-point shooters. They are just praying for the help defense to come. Tonight the Sixers did not contain penetration even a little bit and that led to open shot after open shot for the Magic.
Mo Cheeks acknowledged this fact in his post game interview, which means he clearly understands what it takes to beat this team. That is important since it’s very likely the Sixers will face Orlando in the first round the way the have been playing lately. I am confident Cheeks will emphasize that ad nauseam in preparation for that potential match up. I am also confident the Sixers have good enough perimeter defenders to get the job done when focused.
The Sixers just have to avoid one of my biggest basketball pet peeves – unnecessary help defense. You see it all the time, when someone drives to the cup, his defender is in decent position to contest the shot yet someone comes over anyway to help, unnecessarily leaving a shooter wide open. It takes good basketball instincts to understand when you need to help and when you don’t. Let’s hope the 76er players have those instincts and don’t over commit in help defense, taking away Orlando’s biggest weapon.
Why the 76ers made me look bad tonight
I said in a previous post that the Sixers need to play for the 6th seed so they face Orlando in the first round. That would be their best match up and they would have a real chance to upset them. Losing by 18 and getting handled easily by the Magic does not make that thought look very good, wouldn’t you say?
With that said, I still stick by those early comments. Looking at the Eastern Conference, I think we all agree we don’t want any parts of Boston, Detroit or Clev… I mean LeBron James. I challenge anyone to argue against that point.