April might be an exaggeration, but if the Sixers can't knock off Orlando tonight, they probably won't be favored in a game again until maybe March 30th, vs. Charlotte (possibly the day before, if Kyrie is still malingering). Moe, Voose and Jameer are probably the Sixers best shot to win another before Easter and break their road losing streak that stretches all the way back to New Year's.
I can only assume Doug Collins circled this date on his calendar a few weeks back. After melting down in front of the media and saying, in no uncertain terms "My team sucks." The players appear to have gotten the message. We've seen much better effort from the Sixers (with similar results in the W/L column) ever since they laid an egg at home against the hapless Magic. They've competed on a nightly basis against better teams. The question is, will they be able to bring that type of effort tonight against the Magic, and will their struggling point guard be able to hit a shot to save his life.
Over his last three games, Jrue has shot 16/59 from the floor (27.1%) and 4/16 from three (25%). The good news, sort of, is that he's shifted to more of a facilitator's role as his shot continues to be dry. In each of his past two games, he's had more assists (25) than field goal attempts (23). If he played for a team with other viable offensive weapons, this might be a recipe for success, but the Sixers don't have the firepower to beat anyone when Jrue isn't scoring. They don't have the firepower to beat most teams when Jrue is scoring, but that's beside the point.
The formula for beating Orlando is extremely simple. In their starting lineup, they have two extremely weak links defensively. Jameer Nelson has always been a defensive sieve and Nikola Vucevic simply cannot move his feet. Put those two in a pick-and-roll every time down the floor and watch the dominoes fall around them. I'm sure Nelson will draw the easier assignment on the perimeter (either Ivey or Jenkins, whoever gets the starting nod), so maybe running a small-on-small screen first to force a switch would be a good idea. On the defensive end, concentrate on keeping a body or two on Vucevic and crash the glass from all over the floor. There's no reason to leak back against Orlando, secure the defensive board, then run.
If Doug Collins is still obsessing over Moe Harkless box score, he saw the rook score in double figures in 10 straight games before an 0/8 from the floor against Indy on Saturday night. Harkless and Afflalo will give Turner fits on the defensive end. That's not exactly a high hurdle, though.
Ultimately, it's going to take an extreme lack of energy to lose this game. If the Sixers think they can just go out there, run through the motions and they'll get the win, they're mistaken. If they take the game seriously, attack Orlando's multitude of weaknesses and don't run into some terrible luck, this one should be a win (and maybe their last for a while).
The tip is at 6pm. This is your game thread. I'll be here throughout, desperately searching for my lost hour of sleep. Join me, this week the game will be over before The Walking Dead starts, so that's a plus.