76ers

Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 6:02 p.m.

The 7-3 Sixers will play against their No. 1 pick in the NBA draft two years ago Wednesday night in Orlando.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game against the 3-7 Magic and Markelle Fultz: 

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Amway Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

A long and winding road

It’s been less than a year since Fultz last suited up for the Sixers. Since a scoreless effort on Nov. 19 in the Sixers’ win over the Suns, he experienced a series of agent-recommended medical consultations, a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, a trade minutes before the deadline in February and plenty of time watching on the bench as the Magic made a run to the playoffs. Of course, Fultz went through a lot prior to the last year, too, including a diagnosis in November 2017 of scapular muscle imbalance and the persistent inability, for whatever reason, to shoot the way he had at the University of Washington. 

Now, he’s started the last five games for the Magic. Fultz is averaging 9.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.0 rebounds on the season. He’s already taken 22 three-point shots, seven more than he attempted in his 33 games with the Sixers, though he’s made just four of them.

Load management is in the spotlight 

Joel Embiid is out tonight in the second game of a back-to-back. He'll be listed as such with "injury maintenance/left knee soreness," but this is part of the plan to keep Embiid healthy, per a team source. As we saw with the Kawhi Leonard situation, league rules mandate that there be such a designation for a player sitting out.

Last night, it sounded like his preference was to play vs. Orlando.

“… At the beginning of the season, the goal was to limit my back-to-backs,” he said. “Obviously, the two-game suspension doesn't help. I feel like before that I was in a good rhythm and I kind of lost it. The last couple games I have not been good, especially when it comes to my efficiency and taking care of the ball. I feel like I need to get in a rhythm. So, we’re going to to figure it out.”

Al Horford will return after a load management night. Trey Burke, who missed Tuesday's game with left calf tightness, is available.

Don’t expect a shootout

The Magic are shooting a league-worst 28.2 percent from three-point range. At 33.4 percent, the Sixers are tied for 21st. 

This certainly looks like it might be a low-scoring game. All of the teams currently in the top 10 in defensive rating have a winning record besides the Magic, who are No. 3. They had the second-best defensive rating last season after the trade deadline, too, so their defense doesn’t seem to be a fluke. Jonathan Isaac has 30 blocks, the most in the league. 

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Sixers vs. Cavs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Cavs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Before they have a chance to get one back on the defending champion Raptors Sunday night, the Sixers have a game to play Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.

Here are the essentials for the matchup between the 15-7 Sixers and 5-16 Cavs.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

It’s not rest this time

Joel Embiid has yet to have a “rest” game since saying load management is “BS.”

He’s out Saturday with a left hip contusion. A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers’ 119-113 loss Thursday to the Wizards and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had played in 11 straight games since sitting the last game of a back-to-back on Nov. 13 in Orlando. 

After tonight, he’ll have played in 18 of the Sixers’ first 23 games, and 30.4 minutes per night. He played every one of the team’s first 23 games last year, averaging 34.6 minutes. 

Missing the ‘dot connector’ 

Before the season, Brett Brown called Josh Richardson the “mortar” for the Sixers. On Nov. 20, he labeled him a “dot connector.” 

The Sixers have managed a 5-1 mark in games Richardson has missed — he’s out again Saturday with right hamstring tightness — but they’ve been much worse with him off the floor. The team has a plus-10.6 net rating with Richardson on the court, minus-0.6 with him off it.

Much of that can be attributed to him being paired with Embiid, who has similar on-off numbers and tends to boost the net ratings of whomever he’s playing with, but that disparity does suggest Richardson’s value. 

At a minimum, splitting up the Richardson-Embiid pairing has hurt the Sixers. 

Drama with the Cavs 

Three anonymous players were quoted in a story in The Athletic by Shams Charania and Joe Vardon about new Cavs head coach John Beilein. The players voiced their frustration with, among other things, the former Michigan coach’s emphasis on fundamentals and extended film sessions. And, according to the report, “all the team’s screens, cuts, and pivots are named after wild animals. A curl is a 'polar bear' in John Beilein's system.” That reportedly hasn’t resonated with a few of the Cavs’ veteran players.

Several players then responded to the report and spoke out in support of Beilein, including Tristan Thompson. 

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson told reporters. “You can’t do that s---. At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s--- going on. That s--- is whack to me.”

That wasn’t the only notable news involving the Cavs on Friday. The team is prepared to listen to offers for Kevin Love, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. The five-time All-Star missed Cleveland's 93-87 loss Friday to the Magic because of an illness. 

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Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

The Sixers will be down two starters Saturday night when they return to Wells Fargo Center to play the Cavs.

Josh Richardson will miss his fifth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is out with a left hip contusion.

A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers' 119-113 loss to the Wizards on Thursday night and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight turnovers Thursday.

Richardson and the Sixers have been cautious with his hamstring. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., that this is the first hamstring injury he's dealt with and admitted that it's been a frustrating process.

“A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you’re fine and then you take a wrong step and it’s a week or two-week setback," he said. "I don’t really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It’s just one of those things where I just don’t really know where I’m at most of the time. It always feels like I’m tiptoeing, trying not to do too much.”

The Sixers' preferred starting five of Embiid, Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford have played just 102 minutes together this season, posting a plus-21.3 net rating. 

Furkan Korkmaz has started the past four games in place of Richardson. Without Embiid, the Sixers will need to plug in another spot starter and perhaps search for further big man depth. Kyle O'Quinn hasn't played since Nov. 23, but he might be called upon vs. Cleveland.

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