Things to Watch: Sixers versus Magic
After not being on the Christmas Day slate, the Sixers will be playing in one of the final NBA games of the year 2020. They will be facing off against the last undefeated team in the NBA, the 4-0 Orlando Magic. Here are three things to watch in the New Year’s Eve matchup.
Three-point shooting woes
After all the moves the Sixers made in the offseason, it was looking like their outside shooting was going to improve from last year. That has not been the case through four regular-season games.
Heading into this matchup against the Magic, the Sixers find themselves ranked 27th in the NBA in three-point percentage at 30.7%. Luckily for the Sixers, the Magic aren’t too far ahead of them, shooting 34.9% as a team.
The Sixers have been in a cold spell from deep over their last two games. On Sunday against the Cavs they shot 12/37 (32%) from deep, and in their comeback win against the Raptors on Tuesday they only made eight threes on 31 attempts (26%).
With Seth Curry and Tobias Harris starting to find their footing, this issue could be going away. But if the Sixers want to keep the floor properly spaced for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they need to start being more effective from deep.
The first thing that stands out in this game is the matchup at the center position. Joel Embiid is going to have his hands full tonight, facing off against All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic.
Like Embiid, Vucevic has been off to a great start this season. Through the Magic’s four games, he is averaging 20.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, and shooting an impressive 45% from three. He has come a long way since being drafted by the Sixers.
Vucevic has thrived against his former team throughout his career. His 19.9 PPG against the Sixers is his second-highest points per game against any opponent. Along with those scoring numbers, he also grabs about 12 rebounds a game against the Sixers.
Embiid has been phenomenal on both ends of the floor so far this season, and that shouldn’t change in this one. If the Sixers continue to space the floor and make Vucevic defend him one-on-one, Embiid should still have success in this matchup.
This battle of centers should be fun to watch, it’s not every night you see a battle of two centers who can get it done just about anywhere on the floor.
Getting to the free-throw line
Despite their shooting woes from outside, the Sixers have done a good job of getting to the free-throw line regularly. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are two players in particular who have been successful at drawing contact.
Many have ridiculed Simmons in the past for not getting to the line as much, but that part of his game looks to be growing. He has shot at least seven free throws in each of the last three games and is on pace for a career-high in free throw attempts per game.
Embiid has always been a master of getting to the line, and nothing has changed this season. Entering this game, he is shooting about 11 free throw attempts a game. Not to mention he is coming off a game where he shot more free throws than the entire opposing team on Tuesday night.
The Magic have a lot of size that they can throw at the Sixers, drawing a lot of fouls is going to be crucial. If the two can get opposing players like Vucevic and Aaron Gordon in foul trouble, it will give them the edge in this game.