Tensions are running high as the playoffs draw near, and two teams feeling the heat will take their respective aggressions out on each other when the floundering Philadelphia 76ers host the reeling Orlando Magic in Saturday’s best game.
The Dwight Howard saga has somehow grown since the trade deadline, with his sudden reversal on his trade demand and his decision to opt in to his contract and possibly stay with the Magic through next season.
Asked on Wednesday before tipoff what Orlando’s main concern was amid the rumors that Howard asked for Stan Van Gundy to leave, the Magic’s head coach responded, “to stop Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.”
Well, that didn’t happen. The Magic lost 96-80 and Howard was basically a no-show with 8 points in 40 minutes as Orlando lost its fifth straight, fell to 32-23 and sixth place in the East.
Philadelphia (29-25) has also seen better days.
The 76-97 loss to Washington last Friday was compounded by Philadelphia relinquishing first place in the Atlantic Division to the Boston Celtics.
This week, the Sixers suffered another embarrassing loss, 99-78 to the Raptors on Wednesday, which dropped them to seventh in the East.
Philadelphia managed only 7 points in the fourth quarter, its lowest-scoring quarter since the ’54-’55 season, and has failed to score above 80 points in five of the last 11 games.
The Sixers defense has gone missing as well.
In their last four losses, Philly has given up 97 points per game, almost 10 points above their season average (88.2).
The over/under is 179.5 – the lowest on the board tonight.