Magic, 76ers looking to salvage disappointing seasons
(TSX / STATS) -- The Orlando Magic returned home from a weeklong road trip after Friday's win over the Phoenix Suns, ready to get back to work in their familiar haunts. Of course, Saturday their home was not their own. Not yet, at least.
The NCAA Tournament first and second rounds were still playing out on the Amway Center floor as Xavier and Florida advanced to next week's Sweet 16.
The Magic (25-45) will return Monday as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers (26-43) to start a weeklong three-game homestand.
While the Magic were out West, they certainly kept a close eye on what was going on in their building with several potential draft prospects playing on their home floor. Both the Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers are in line for a top five pick in a loaded draft.
But neither team appears to be playing like it is readying for the draft or trying to increase their lottery odds.
As both the Magic and the 76ers come down the stretch run of their seasons, they are certainly not focused on that. They want to win and build on the group they have on their teams for the future.
Orlando's road trip turned into a disappointing 1-2 trip. The Magic dropped a game to the Sacramento Kings on some poor late-game execution and then virtually did not show up in a 30-point loss against the Golden State Warriors.
The Magic salvaged something from the trip with a 109-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday. The team has spent much of the last quarter of the season trying to build momentum for the season and create consistency in a year that has been full of frustration and mistakes.
"I thought we responded much better than we did (Thursday against the Golden State Warriors)," Magic center Nikola Vucevic told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel after Friday's win. "Now, obviously, the big thing for us is can we do it again the next game? If we do, great. If not, then this one doesn't mean much."
They get that opportunity against the 76ers, another team hoping to build some momentum for next season.
The 76ers continued doing that, upending the second-place Boston Celtics 105-99 at home on Sunday. Rookie Dario Saric scored 23 points, his 19th straight game in double figures.
Philadelphia won its second straight game after losing five of the past six. It certainly was not the effort of a team packing it in for the rest of the season either.
The 76ers, long known for their "tanking" strategy to stockpile high draft picks, took at least a little step forward this year behind Rookie of the Year frontrunner Joel Embiid. Even with him out, the Sixers have continued to gain ground, passing the Magic for the fifth-worst record in the league and showing plenty of potential with some impressive victories.
"Philadelphia has been one of the most fun teams to watch this year for me," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer before Friday's loss to the Sixers. "I love the way they move the ball. I love how hard they play."
The 76ers certainly seem to have a bright future and plenty of room to grow with first overall pick Ben Simmons waiting in the wings. And the 76ers have the chance to add more talent with their own pick likely to fall in the top five and possibly a pick coming from the Los Angeles Lakers if the Lakers fall out of the top three in the Draft Lottery.
That is a concern for the offseason. Now, the Sixers want to make the most of the games remaining.
This is all to say, neither the Magic nor the 76ers are looking to go quietly off into the end of the season. They are ready to play spoiler and pick up at least a few more wins before the offseason begins.
Updated March 20, 2017