December 20, 2014

A late-February matchup between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers won't move the needle much in regards to the Eastern Conference playoff race, but it should at least make for another entertaining game.

Two of the NBA's worst defensive teams of late, they'll square off for the second time in six days Sunday night in Orlando in what projects as another high-scoring affair.

The Magic recorded their highest point total in a non-overtime game this season in Tuesday's 124-115 victory in Philadelphia, a result that fostered hope of a belated playoff push. Those chances have since dwindled with two consecutive losses in which Orlando (25-32) consistently failed to get stops.

After surrendering 51 points to Stephen Curry in Thursday's 130-114 loss to Golden State, the Magic allowed New York to shoot 51.2 percent during a 62-point first half en route to Friday's 108-95 defeat at Madison Square Garden.

"If there are any teams in the league that don't have any excuse for being flat on the second night of back-to-backs, it's young teams," coach Scott Skiles said of the slow start. "We should be out there wild, playing free and having a ton of energy. So it's very disappointing.''

A defensive decline has contributed to Orlando's 6-19 record since Jan. 1. Opponents have averaged 109.8 points and shot 47.3 percent over the Magic's last 16 games and they've allowed 112.4 points per game in five since the All-Star break.

That mark still betters that of the 76ers, who've permitted 117.6 points per game in five losses following the break. Philadelphia (8-50) has dropped seven straight and 11 of 12 to retain ownership of the league's worst record.

The Sixers did show some improvement on the defensive end Friday against Washington, but they shot 38.5 percent in the second half as the Wizards rallied for a 103-94 win.

"I think by and large it was a good game but those portions of it, that's the difference whether you win or lose," coach Brett Brown said in reference to a 13-0 run that gave Washington a 79-72 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The 76ers also struggled from the outside, finishing 8 of 25 from 3-point range after a 7-of-23 effort in Wednesday's 111-91 loss at Detroit. They averaged 12.3 3s on a 44.1 percent success rate over their previous four games.

Philadelphia has made 41.1 percent of its 3-pointers in three season meetings with the Magic, including a 9-of-19 performance in a 96-87 win in Orlando on Jan. 20. Isaiah Canaan is 11 of 19 while averaging 16.7 points for the series but 1 of 7 over the last two games.

Orlando figures to again feature former Sixer Nikola Vucevic, who scored a season-high 35 on Tuesday and is averaging 22.6 points and 11.1 rebounds over a seven-game stretch.

Evan Fournier added 21 points in the last matchup and scored 20 against the Warriors before being held to eight on 3-of-10 shooting by the Knicks.

The Magic also hope to again capitalize on Philadelphia's ball-control issues. They scored 28 points off 22 turnovers Tuesday and had 27 on 17 giveaways in a 105-97 victory in Philadelphia on Nov. 7.

Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel had 16 points and 11 rebounds in Tuesday's meeting but is questionable for this one after exiting Friday's game late with a left leg injury.

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