Lineup change backfires; Sixers routed by Magic

Posted: April 16, 2012

ORLANDO - With 7 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter, Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson casually drove the lane and lofted a nifty lob pass to center Daniel Orton, who deposited an easy layup with nary a 76ers defender in sight.

After the ball went through the basket, coach Doug Collins looked at assistant head coach Michael Curry and asked, "What do we do, coach?"

It was that perplexing of a night. Before the game, the Sixers coach talked of his team's need to negate the three-point shooting of the Magic, particularly Ryan Anderson. He even thrust Thaddeus Young into the starting lineup to be quicker against an Orlando team that was missing star Dwight Howard (back injury) and his backup, Glen "Big Baby" Davis (right knee sprain). Collins spoke of not allowing the Magic to control the backboards and making sure that on pick-and-rolls the shooter always be covered.

He said all the right things before the game, but somewhere between his mouth and the basketball court, all seemed lost after the first quarter, and the severely shorthanded Magic laid a 113-100 loss Monday night on the Sixers, who dropped into a tie with the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference. Both teams own 31-29 records, with the Knicks officially in seventh place, holding the tiebreak advantage, as they won two of three from the Sixers this season.

Anderson torched the Sixers for 26 points and 16 rebounds, made 11 of his 16 shots and both of his three pointers.

After building a six-point lead in the opening 12 minutes and limiting the Magic to a single triple, the Sixers defense became like Swiss cheese, allowing the Magic to post 40 second-quarter points and shoot 16 of 23 (69.6 percent) from the floor, including only one miss in six three-point attempts.

The Magic seemed nothing like the team that usually thrills fans at the Amway Center, and it wasn't without Howard, Davis and Hedu Turkoglu (facial fracture). And the usually boisterous crowd was hardly up to snuff. But the results remained the same, as the Magic beat the Sixers for the 14th time in the teams' last 16 regular-season meetings and improved to 36-25.

Despite missing Howard, the league's leading rebounder at 14.5 a game, the Magic owned the backboards to the tune of 46-30, including a 13-4 advantage on the offensive glass.

"They are such a good three-point shooting team and getting those extra possessions hurt," said Jrue Holiday, who led the Sixers with 18 points and dealt eight assists. "I mean, we're in there, we're just not grabbing the ball. On some of our assignments, we just didn't execute. Their offensive rebounding, you'd think it would be easier without Dwight and Big Baby in there. And we didn't contest their three-point shots. If anything, we need to run them off the line."

All that information was talked about before the game, yet not executed. It's becoming an all too familiar pattern for a team that has now lost 20 of its past 31 games, has blown away all hopes of winning the Atlantic Division and is getting dangerously close to losing out on a playoff berth. The Sixers are only two games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, who host the Sixers next Wednesday.

"They just shot lights out, they really did," Collins said of Orlando's 48-for-90 from the floor. "The second quarter, we just couldn't stop them. Ryan Anderson [had] eight offensive boards and then Jameer Nelson and J.J. [Redick] in their pick-and-roll game, they just strung us out. They made a ton of big shots. They're just a tough team to guard, because they're great shooters, they have four out around one, and you have to play to the end of the [shot] clock against these guys. They play as hard offensively at the end of the clock as any team in the NBA. Our guys would take that breath, thinking their guy was out of the play [and they'd hit a shot]. Whether it be Jameer Nelson on the weak side or J.J. hitting a couple. With Quentin Richrdson, we were supposed to make him dribble. We gave him three threes without dribbling the ball. And you can't have those kinds of broken coverages against this team. You've got to make certain guys put that ball on the floor.

"The other night, I watched their game against Atlanta and they couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a handful of rice. They missed more shots but [Monday], they made them. That's what happened. I watched the Atlanta game on tape and they had the same shots and missed them."

Anderson made sure there was no repeat performance from that Atlanta game. As waves of Sixers players raced out after him when he spotted up at the three-point line, he calmly made his way to the basket and took care of things from there.

"They do a pretty good job of picking," said Evan Turner, who contributed 13 points and five rebounds. "The guys set the pick, but the players are coming off hard so, even if the guys don't set the best picks or it doesn't get used, they're still moving at a fast speed and when they're making shots it's even tougher.

"They were getting every last rebound. You have to start drawing the line sometimes and say that he [Anderson] isn't going to get another one. Body up, man up, chest up and keep him off the glass. He'd be a Hall of Famer if he played against us every day. He knows how to work the system to his advantage."

And Nelson orchestrated it all beautifully, dealing 13 assists to go along with 16 points and setting up Redick (18 points) and Jason Richardson (17) all evening.

Which left Collins to do a lot of head scratching and ask for guidance from Curry.

Six shots

Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams scored 15 each, and Spencer Hawes had 10 for the Sixers . . . Earl Clark came off the bench to collect 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic.

Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobCooney76. Read his Sixers blog, Sixerville, at www.philly.com/sixerville.

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