Dwight Howard scored 30 points and pulled 17 rebounds as the Orlando Magic edged the Philadelphia 76ers 99-95 at Wells Fargo Center. Lou Williams almost single-handedly pulled off a comeback for Philly with 18 points in the fourth quarter, but Howard was just a bit more clutch at the end.
The Sixers would cut the Magic lead to three with about a minute left, but Howard would score five points and force a turnover in the final minute to ice it for Orlando. Howard, who is shooting 57.9% from the free throw line this season, hit 14 of his 19 attempts tonight.
Andre Iguodala supplied 21 points and eight assists, Spencer Hawes pulled down 10 boards and Lou Williams led the team with 23 points. Jrue Holiday struggled with just 3 points on 1-5 shooting. The Sixers are now 6-4 over their last 10 and are holding on to the #7 seed in the Eastern conference.
Next up for the Sixers is the NBA's best team, the San Antonio Spurs, in Philadelphia on Friday night.
After dealing the Atlanta Hawks an 117-83 defeat Tuesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers return home to Wells Fargo Center this evening to host the struggling Orlando Magic, who are just 8-8 in their last 16 games.
Philadelphia is surging of late, winning seven of its last 10 behind great play the resurgent Elton Brand; the veteran power forward is averaging 19 points on 57.7 percent shooting in that span. Swingman Andre Iguodala (15.2 points, 7 assists, 55.8 percent shooting) and reserve forward Thaddeus Young (13.1 points in just 26.7 minutes, 57.1 percent from the field) have also contributed to the Sixers' rapid ascent.
The Sixers have just a 1-1 record against Orlando so far this season, but it could easily have been 2-0. Last month, the Magic scored two four-point plays--one in the fourth quarter and another in overtime--in a one-point Philadelphia loss. Tanner Steidel of Liberty Ballers, SB Nation's Sixers blog, wrote, "this game was lost because of defensive blunders and a lack of an end-of-game offensive strategy." Those defensive blunders included fouling two three-point shooters, leading to the aforementioned four-point plays, as well as relying too heavily on one-on-one scoring chances late in the game instead of running an offensive set.
The key to beating Orlando this time around is the same, really: let Dwight Howard get his points inside, but stay at home on the Magic's shooters. Howard figures to light Spencer Hawes and Brand up pretty easily, but if Iguodala can lock down Hedo Turkoglu and his teammates fulfill their assignments defensively, Philadelphia should stand a strong chance to win.
One way to get a leg up on Orlando would be to get Howard in foul trouble. With him out of the game, the Magic rely on Malik Allen to play mop-up center minutes. Allen stands his ground defensively and knows where to be, but he does not rebound or block shots well, which in turn should open up driving lanes to the basket for the likes of Iguodala, Young, Jrue Holiday, and Louis Williams.
Tonight's game tips off at 7 PM on Comcast Sports Net.