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Still In This Thing: Sixers Look to Stay Afloat in Atlantic Against Orlando

Apr 7, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off their worst loss of the season, but can still stay in the Atlantic race with a win against Orlando tonight.

Even though it felt like it should’ve counted for far more, the Sixers’
loss to the Raptors last Wednesday actually only marked one extra tally
in the loss column for the Sixers, who still rest at four games above
.500. It may feel like the race for the Atlantic (and if you wanna take
it a little further, the whole season) is over, but in actuality we’re
still very much in the hunt here—the Celtics lead only by a game, having
lost their last two (admittedly tough gcontests against the Spurs and
Celtics) and playing tonight against the surging Pacers, currently on a
four-game winning streak. With the Celtics and Sixers gearing for an
Easter showdown, any scenario but a Boston win and Philly loss means
that the Ballers will have a chance to re-take the division in Boston
tomorrow.

Of course, if the C’s lose and the Sixers win tonight—it happened a lot
earlier in the season, I promise—they can capture the Atlantic lead
tonight instead. To live up to their end of the bargain, Philly will
have to defeat the Orlando Magic, who like they were when the Sixers
caught them at the beginning of the season, are currently at very low
tide, having lost five in a row (including a pair of embarrassing losses
to the Knicks) and also dealing with a feud between their coach (Stan
Van Gundy) and best player (all-everything center Dwight Howard). Still,
with the Sixers coming off a 21-point loss at home to the Raptors,
we’re not really anyone to talk, are we? Neither team’s gonna be doing
much chest-puffing tonight.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Sixers come out to start this game.
After a final half on Wednesday where they scored a combined 22 points,
looking as tired, incoherent and spiritless as we’ve seen the team all
year, it’ll be crucial for the team to get off to a good start tonight,
to put images of that awful 24 minutes of basketball firmly in the
rearview and jump on this bad-vibes Magic team early. In fact, this game
may very well end up a borderline-pathetic “which one of these teams is
gonna crumple first?” matchup, so let’s hope the Sixers are sharp
enough after a couple days off to stick it to Orlando early and beat the
fight out of them.

8:00 tip from Wells Fargo Center. Another national game, remarkably—last
year we didn’t get nearly enough of them, this year it’s starting to
feel like we’re getting way too many. But as bad as feelings are around
this team after blowouts at the hands of Washington and Toronto in the
space of a week, it’s still far from lost—keep pace with the Celtics
here, pull ahead tomorrow, and we could still be on our way to a four
seed and a potentially very favorable first-round matchup against the
underwhelming Atlanta Hawks. The time is now, though—lose a couple more,
and we’re gonna start wondering if it’s not too late to start tanking
just so we don’t have to meet the Heat in the playoffs.