76ers-Magic Preview

It’s not unusual for Stan Van Gundy to vent his frustrations

about his team, and the coach had plenty after watching the Orlando

Magic close a four-game road trip with another ugly loss.

It’s considerably less common to hear the same critical words

from Dwight Howard.

The four-time All-Star joined Van Gundy in taking the Magic to

task for their defensive effort after the team’s fifth loss in six

games, a trend they’ll look to change as they return home Saturday

night looking for a ninth straight win over the Philadelphia


Orlando (16-9) had its six-game winning streak snapped Dec. 4 in

Milwaukee, but that loss didn’t turn out to be a blip in the radar.

The Magic lost 80-74 at home to Atlanta two nights later, then

dropped three of four during a Western road trip.

Each loss came by double figures, the worst of which was

Tuesday’s finale in Denver. The Nuggets outscored Orlando 32-16 in

the fourth quarter, turning a one-point deficit after 36 minutes

into a 111-94 rout.

For the trip, the Magic allowed 102.5 points per game – 11.7

more than they’d been letting up before hitting the road.

“It was lack of effort, lack of toughness, lack of any desire to

defend anybody,” Van Gundy said. “I thought all four games in the

trip were the exact same. … If that doesn’t change then we’re

going to be a very bad basketball team.'”

The two-time defensive player of the year agreed.

“We just have to play D, and that means everybody,” Howard said.

“We have to do a better job of not allowing anyone to get to the

rim every play. It is time for the big guys to help out in the

lane, but it is very tough when after one dribble they get to lane

and I am on the other side.

“I can’t fly over there. I don’t have a cape in real life.”

Howard hasn’t needed to do his best Superman impersonation

against the 76ers (10-16) recently thanks to his team’s offensive

explosiveness. The Magic averaged 120.0 points while shooting 56.6

percent during four victories over Philadelphia last season that

pushed their winning streak in the series to eight.

Six Orlando players averaged in double figures last season

against the Sixers, led by Howard’s 18.3 points per game.

The Magic acquired troubled guard Gilbert Arenas from Washington

on Saturday in the first move of a major roster shakeup. Orlando

sent forward Rashard Lewis to the Wizards for Arenas and also were

finalizing a deal to land Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson from

Phoenix for Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat.

Philadelphia won five of six during a home-heavy stretch to kick

off December, but its last game of 2010 at the Wells Fargo Center

rang a sour note heading into a season-high eight-game road trip.

The 76ers led the Lakers by four at the end of three quarters, but

were then outscored 35-19 en route to a 93-81 loss.

That wasn’t enough to discourage coach Doug Collins, who was

happy to see his team limit Los Angeles to 41.8 percent


“I told our guys I was incredibly proud of them,” he said. “We

played a terrific defensive game against one of the best offensive

teams in the league.”

Only once since the 1989-90 season has Philadelphia played eight

straight on the road, but there’s an arguably worse element

involved than just the length of the trip. The Sixers’ opponents

are a combined 125-77.

One positive development for Philadelphia is the improvement of

Spencer Hawes. The center, acquired from Sacramento in July, has

averaged 17.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in his last

three games.

Howard, however, averaged 26.3 points and 14.2 boards in six

games while Hawes was with the Kings.