The group of 76ers alumni will be in full force when the Orlando Magic meet the 76ers during Friday’s 6:30 p.m. NBA seeding game in Kissimmee, Fla.
Four of the Magic players are former Sixers, and each has enjoyed a prominent role for the team.
The former Sixers are Nic Vucevic, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams and James Ennis. During Wednesday’s 109-99 loss to Toronto, Ennis and Vucevic were in the starting lineup. Fultz came off the bench, and Carter-Williams was sidelined with a sore left foot after playing the first three games of the NBA restart.
Vucevic was a Sixers first-round pick in 2011, but lasted only one season. Doug Collins, the Sixers coach during Vucevic’s rookie season, was never sold on him. Since then, Vucevic has flourished in Orlando, making one All-Star team in 2019. He averages a team-high 19.5 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Fultz, whose struggles with the Sixers are well documented after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has enjoyed a rebirth in Orlando, averaging 11.9 points and 5.1 assists.
Other than Wednesday’s loss to Toronto when he shot 2-for-9 from the field, Fultz has played well in the NBA’s restart. Most notably, in four games, he has hit 4 of 5 three-pointers. Considering he is a 27.5% three-point shooter, that’s progress.
Carter-Williams, the former NBA Rookie of the Year with the Sixers in 2014, has averaged 7.2 points off the bench.
Ennis was acquired by the Magic from the Sixers during this year’s trade deadline. With the Sixers this season, he averaged 15.3 minutes in 48 games. With the Magic, he has started 14 of 16 games and is averaging 7.3 points in 23.8 minutes.
The Magic (32-37) entered Thursday as the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff team, a half-game behind No. 7 Brooklyn.
Like the previous three Sixers opponents during the NBA restart, the Magic will send out a depleted lineup. Forward Jonathan Isaac, one of the foundational building blocks, suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament Sunday that ended his season. During Wednesday’s loss, Aaron Gordon (14.4 ppg.) suffered a hamstring injury after being fouled by Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, who received a Flagrant 1 foul.
Gordon won’t play against the Sixers.
“It’s hard to see a guy go down for sure,” Magic swingman Terrence Ross said after the game in a Zoom interview.
Ross, who has averaged 14.9 points off the bench, says he won’t make any excuse for injuries.
“To be honest, all teams have injuries and when you are on the floor, you have to perform,” he said.
The Magic, who are 2-0 against the Sixers, with both wins in Orlando, won their first two seeding games, beating Brooklyn and Sacramento. They have lost their last two, against Indiana and Toronto. In Wednesday’s game, the Magic trailed, 55-35, at halftime.
Orlando shot 23-for-75 from three-point range (30.6%) in the last two games. Coach Steve Clifford had a simple explanation for the offensive struggles.
“Both are terrific defensive teams based around help, and they make it tough to get the ball in the paint,” said Clifford, whose team had off from practice Thursday.