The Philadelphia 76ers will be without sensational rookie Ben Simmons for the first time this season when they continue a six-game homestand against the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Simmons is dealing with swelling in his left elbow and will be re-evaluated over the weekend, the team announced Friday, leaving a big hole to fill for one of the NBA’s hottest teams.
The 21-year-old is averaging 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.1 steals and already owns nine double-doubles to go along with two triple-doubles for Philadelphia, which has won nine of 12 after a 101-81 win over Portland on Wednesday. The Sixers still have big man Joel Embiid, who is averaging 28.4 points and 12.4 boards during a 4-1 stretch and recorded double-doubles in both games he played against the Magic last season. Orlando could be an easy target as it continues a tailspin following a strong start, dropping its seventh in a row with a 118-103 setback at Boston on Friday. Opponents are averaging 115.1 points during the slide.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Florida (Orlando), NBCSN Philadelphia
ABOUT THE MAGIC (8-11): Leading scorer Evan Fournier (18.4 points) was limited to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting and Aaron Gordon (17.6) was held to 11 on 2-of-10 against Boston. Center Nikola Vucevic finished with 12 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds to record his third consecutive double-double. Terrence Ross dipped from 22 points in Wednesday’s loss at Minnesota to five at Boston, but the veteran is 18-for-28 from the floor over a four-game span.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (10-7): To go along with his gaudy numbers, Embiid is seemingly more comfortable in all phases of the game and is taking a particular amount of pride in his defense. “Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I just want to keep on growing. I’m still getting better. My blocks are a little bit down, but I’m a better rebounder this year. ... I’m doing a lot of things to help the team win, and the guys around me do a lot of things to help me, too. I just want to keep on growing defensively and be the best defensive player in the league. Hopefully, this year I can win (NBA) Defensive Player of the Year.” The Sixers have held consecutive opponents under 90 points for the first time since last December after limiting Portland to 33.7 percent shooting.
1. Orlando has won 14 of the last 17 meetings in Philadelphia.
2. Magic PF Marreese Speights hit 4-of-9 3-pointers Friday and did not attempt a shot inside the arc.
3. Sixers PG T.J. McConnell, who could see an uptick in playing time with Simmons out, had 13 points on 5-of-7 from the field and seven assists off the bench Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Sixers 114, Magic 101