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ORLANDO – As the last undefeated team in the league, the Orlando Magic (4-0) aim to keep their undefeated streak alive when they host the Philadelphia 76ers at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday

After a three-game road trip where they won a two-competition series with the Washington Wizards and defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando is looking to extend its longest winning streak to start a season in franchise history

“It’s great for us to be on the road and win three games,” said Nikola Vucevic, who averaged 63 of his 20 points per game in the fourth quarter. “It shows the preparation we’re doing, the focus we are the boys have and how dedicated we are. It’s a great way to start a season ”

Orlando is the only team to have scored at least 30 points in their fourth game in all games this season, averaging 365 points in the final frame while shooting 57 percent out of the field, both league highs

“It’s very exciting to be 4-0,” said Markelle Fultz. “Our goal is to come out every night and win. To have four wins and above all to do a road trip 3-0 is huge for us and us need to keep improving and growing ”

Those numbers are put to the test against a 76ers squad that was equally impressive for finishing games, while the Magic outperforms opponents by the top 13 points per game, the Sixers ranks second in that category with 5 points, 8 per competition They set the tone for the defensive end in the last 12 minutes, with Philadelphia opponents averaging just 215 points in the fourth quarter, second-longest in the federation, shooting at 403 percent from the ground

“(Getting off to a good start) is really big for us,” said Fultz. “I think one of the things that we’re going to be looking at not just against the 76s this year but all year round is getting out in the first quarter and win the first quarter””

Two areas that Magic head coach Steve Clifford would like his team to improve upon early in today’s game are help with defense and drive to the hoop

“We’re still winning right now but we have to improve a lot to achieve the way we want to play,” said Fultz. “I think this is something we all have to get into and be ready for.”

KEY STAT: Magic’s second unit currently ranks sixth in the league with 44 points per game. Terrence Ross was undoubtedly a big factor, scoring 21 points per game from the jaw

One player whose posts may have flown under the radar is Khem Birch’s 6-foot-9 center has proven himself as a rebound, defender and even a goalscorer this season, but perhaps his best attribute is his screening that players like Ross freed

Birch is an average of 63 screen assists this season, most under the reserves, and a whopping 138 screen assistants per 36 minutes, a league high among all players

“(I assume) a lot of pride in it,” said Birch. “Just because it gets my teammates going and it gets me going too” ”

IN AND OUT: Orlando second unit and final group was badly hit on Thursday when the team announced that Ross (right achilles tendon irritation) would be missing the Magic game against the 76ers

James Ennis III (strained right Achilles tendon / painful right calf), Al-Farouq Aminu (right knee rehabilitation) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) are featured on the team’s injury report

QUOTE: “It will be good to be in front of our fans again because we are one of the teams that fans can have”(It will be nice to have) (fans) and our families there just to watch, play in our home court and just play a game and go straight home and rest, we took care of what we had to do along the way Now it’s time to go back home and try to do business there ”- said Dwayne Bacon, who scored 18 points when he shot off the ground 9-10 in Magic’s victory over Thunder on Tuesday

RIVALS REPORT: For this edition of our Rivals Report series, I’ve brought a special guest, Brian Seltzer, writer and podcaster for the 76ers. He’s covered the Sixers for the past six seasons and offers detailed insights into the team. He was so friendly to take the time Thursday morning to answer some key questions:

Savage: “What was the key to the Sixers’ success in the fourth quarter, especially on the defensive, that led to their success?”

Seltzer: “No question about it, if there is a trend in the first week of the season that we can pull out of the Sixers, then they figured out how to win, especially in the second half”Most recently, they really banned the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter and that was also the case with their inaugural win over the Washington Wizards. If you have a man like Joel Embiid to anchor your defense, that helps one hundred percent if you have a (player) like Ben Simmons who is also a possible candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in your stable and is able to block elite scorers on the opposing end that helps. And then you have someone like Danny Green who is an All League Defensive Player himself I think the Sixers have staff, they have seasoned staff who understand the mindset it takes to get stuck in the fourth quarter when the intensity picks up, at this early stage of the season they get along with talent (and) them find out what new scheme is being installed defensively by a new assistant, Dan Burke, who has been with the Indiana Pacers for the past two seasons It was g great.They have a defensive rating of just over eighty-eight in the second half, which is by far the best in the NBA through week one, and their thirteen and a half net ratings in the second half are the third best in the NBA behind Brooklyn and Indiana if I Looking at the trends, the fourth quarter was really good for the Sixers, especially those two wins against Washington and Toronto.But in general I would say that the second half was a strong one for them, especially in the three games Embiid played and which everyone has won ”

Savage: “One of the guys Magic fans still have an affinity with is Tobias Harris. When he started his NBA career in Orlando, he met a number of wins for the What Have You Seen From Him So Far franchise and What Have You Expected” the sixers this season from him? ”

Seltzer: “First of all, talk about a man who personally was one of the few of us who did an excellent job in 2020. After coming back from the bubble, he managed to implement a huge proposal and great commitment in the fall he had an audience with future Vice President Kamala Harris who was really cool to see along with CJ McCollum and Donovan Mitchell he’s been leading the 76’s since joining the team, that hasn’t changed he got his old head coach in from the Clippers Doc Rivers, who he thrived under when he was in L.A. From that point of view he’s in a great place I’d say his last game against Toronto, he had twenty-six points, eleven rebounds, three assists – not just his best of those four games he’s played so far this year – but for me I think back, it has to be one of his best games as a 76. He was great in z far half He was super aggressive Doc Rivers loved to watch it I think defensively, he really went down the track in this particular game. He had a big bargain, he had a big game in transition to solve what was going on It could have been a possible game in the last few minutes and then the Sixers pitched for a basket on the other end to give them more cushion Great in the last three games Again, I think his performance against Toronto was one of his best, if not his best as a sixer ”

Savage: “There are obviously some changes in the workforce, but what are some of the biggest differences we’ll see with this Philadelphia 76ers team this year?”

Seltzer: “You have Doc on the sidelines and a huge difference that you will see or maybe you won’t see him – I’m not sure he will be visible to fans at the game – Daryl Morey is the New Now President.” of Basketball Operations, Hand in Hand with Elton Brand After those leadership roles were filled, the Sixers were very aggressive towards Draft Night and were able to acquire additional shots that landed Danny Green in a deal that was later made with Oklahoma City in early December then distributed Josh Richardson to the Dallas Mavericks and got Seth Curry back The Sixers’ main focus in a really short and accelerated off-season was on increasing the spacing through filming around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and increasing financial flexibility If you just look at what the Sixers are doing, especially on the offensive end of the floor, they were able to start with curry and green You tried to get Joel Embiid deeper into the post and really force the opposition to fetch their poison. If you get the ball in Embiid you will either be forced to double it, dirty it, or give it to you Let Shooter Fade Out If you play him one on one, there’s a good chance he’ll pull another foul or score I think they really see Embiid as a guy they’re going to lead the offense through. They want him to establish you want to get it going from end to end, get the ball deep in and then use the space that surrounds it “”

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Magic vs 76ers

World News – AU – Orlando Magic vs Philadelphia 76ers: Game Preview | Orlando Magic

Source: https://www.nba.com/magic/orlando-magic-philadelphia-sixers-game-preview-story-20201231