While the NBA’s Orlando bubble has proved very effective in protecting players from coronavirus, injuries are still affecting several teams.
The 41-27 Philadelphia 76ers and 32-37 Orlando Magic have both been hit very hard by injuries in the bubble. For Philadelphia, All-Star point guard Ben Simmons suffered a knee injury on Wednesday and will be out for several weeks. Role players Glenn Robinson III and Mike Scott have also missed time. The Magic have recently lost key forwards Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon to injuries, and Michael Carter-Williams and Al Farouq Aminu have also missed time.
How will these teams manage the injuries? We’ll get to see today as the teams square off in a nationally-televised matchup (6:30 p.m. ET Friday on TNT).
USAbetting will look in this preview at some key issues facing these two injury-plagued teams. At the end, we’ll look into how the answers to those questions will end up impacting the game’s result with our Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers predictions and concluding betting picks.
Can Al Horford Find His Niche in the Offense Without Ben Simmons?
It’s plain to see that the 76ers’ signing of Horford last summer was a terrible decision. The 34-year-old big man inked a four-year, $109 million deal to play in Philly, but he hasn’t looked even close to the fringe All-Star that he was with the Boston Celtics for three years.
This season, Horford is averaging a career low in true-shooting percentage (52.7) and his lowest points per game (11.8) in 11 seasons. His assists per game number (4) is also a four-year low. Defensively, he is not living up to his reputation as an All-Defensive Team member whatsoever.
Part of Horford’s regression is certainly the natural aging process, but it is also his poor fit with the Sixers. He thrives as a facilitator from the high and low post, but there is just not enough touches or spacing for him to work well with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the floor.
With Simmons out and the 76ers lacking playmaking, the team will very likely give Horford an opportunity to show off his ball skills against the Magic.
Will Markelle Fultz Have the Fitness & Confidence to Stand Out?
Fultz arrived late to the bubble in Orlando due to a personal issue. As a result, he has come off the bench in each of the Magic’s three bubble games despite starting in 59 of his first 65 games of the season. The team has eased him into play for conditioning purposes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Magic decide to start Fultz against the 76ers, though. The Sixers were the team that drafted Fultz first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. They were also the team that traded him for a rather modest return after two injury-plagued seasons.
Fultz has looked pretty solid in his 81 total minutes in the bubble, with his 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range and reliability on his midrange jumper as the key positives. He will be playing against a Sixers team with mediocre perimeter defense due to Simmons’ absence, but solid rim protectors in Joel Embiid and Al Horford. The improved shooting from Fultz could come in handy against Philly if he is confident enough to take the shots that the 76ers give him.
Will 76ers’ Perimeter Players Avoid Turnovers?
The 76ers do not have a reliable second perimeter creator outside of Ben Simmons, who is injured. Their key guards and wings are Josh Richardson, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Alec Burks, Matisse Thybulle and Raul Neto, but none of them average more than 3 assists per game.
In this game, the temptation for the Philadelphia guards could be to fill the ball-handling and creating void that Simmons’ injury creates. However, none of them are ready for that sort of role. The Sixers would be best running their offense heavily through Joel Embiid with only occasional plays run for the guards.
When Philly’s perimeter players do handle the ball, they need to be very careful with the ball and not let Orlando get free transition baskets because of carelessness. Getting shots up toward the rim on every possession will help take advantage of Joel Embiid’s offensive rebounding ability instead of forcing him to run back on transition after a Sixers turnover.
Our Betting Preview’s Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers Predictions & Picks Verdict
I see a slow-paced, low-turnover game where the Sixers just try to wear down the Magic with a lot of Joel Embiid and Al Horford post-ups. Orlando should have a decently efficient offensive game, but the transition punch lacking due to injuries to Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and possibly Michael Carter-Williams will make the Magic have to work harder for their points in the half court.
Both teams will play slower than usual, but I like the chances of the Sixers shooting a solid percentage from downtown due to Embiid’s low-post presence. Philly won’t win by a massive margin, but should get the victory by more than a few points. Here are USAbetting’s Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers predictions:
- The top USA online betting outlets are favoring the Sixers in this matchup by 4.5 points. I highly recommend picking those 76ers -4.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -115 with Bovada, Bookmaker or Intertops.
- The players missing for these teams will make for a very slow-paced game, even though I see the squads executing pretty well on offense. Have a wager on the under 222pts @ biggest odds of -105 with BetOnline.