Magic's home streak on the line vs. Philly
The Orlando Magic will try Monday night to complete an undefeated five-game homestand.
The matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers figures to be their toughest recent test.
Orlando (35-38) has taken care of business in the first four games of its homestand against teams with losing records -- Cleveland, Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis. That has helped the Magic inch within one game of eighth-place Miami (36-37) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando, in its most recent game, rallied from a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter and outlasted Memphis 123-119 in overtime on Friday.
"It would have been an awful loss and it might have ended it," guard Evan Fournier said of the team's playoff chase. "But, just because we won it, it doesn't mean anything; it just means we can still believe, and we still have some big games left."
A head-to-head matchup at Miami on Tuesday night is the biggest remaining game, but Orlando has little margin of error with nine games left.
Philadelphia (47-26) comes in solidly in third place in the East, but the Sixers were stung at Atlanta on Saturday, a 129-127 loss snapping a six-game winning streak.
"The game at stages was bizarre to me," said Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. "Really, some of the turnovers in the fourth period were head-scratching. I think some of the defensive lapses we had in the first half were head-scratching."
There is no such consternation over the play of Jimmy Butler, who scored 25 points in the loss, his fifth consecutive game of 20-plus points, his longest streak since being acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He will try to extend that streak against a stingy Orlando defense.
The Magic have allowed 103.8 points per game in their past 14 games, the NBA's best post-All-Star break figure through Saturday's games. Orlando was also first since the break in opponent's 3-point percentage (30.7), second in defensive rating (104.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) and sixth in defensive field-goal percentage (44.1).
That stellar defense was absent for three quarters against Memphis but came to life during the Magic's key comeback.
"Every game, from here on out, is a must-win in our eyes," forward Wes Iwundu said on NBA.com.
"Going forward, we have to approach each and every game with a focus from the start. Every team is going to give us their best shot because, at the end of the day, they want to stop us from getting (to the playoffs). We've got to come into every game like we're playing the best team in the league."
Philadelphia is 2-1 against Orlando this season, with each team winning on its home court. Two of the meetings came by mid-November, with the most recent matchup happening March 5, when the Sixers won 114-106.
Sixers star center Joel Embiid (27.5 points, 13.8 rebounds per game) sat that one out as part of an eight-game absence due to knee soreness. He has played in six of the past seven games, including a 40-point outing in a win at Milwaukee on March 17 and a 37-point, 22-rebound effort against Boston on Wednesday.
"It's a luxury to have a top 5-caliber player," said 76ers guard JJ Redick. "That's what Joel is."
The 76ers will be without point guard Ben Simmons, who was ruled out with a stomach virus. T.J. McConnell will start in his place.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 25, 2019