Magic in Tight Race for Playoffs

With their hold on the Eastern Conference's final postseason spot weakening, the Orlando Magic look to put some distance between themselves and the other playoff hopefuls Saturday when they visit a Philadelphia 76ers team that essentially needs to win out to qualify for the postseason.

Oddsmakers have made Orlando -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 185 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Orlando -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Orlando (36-42) is in a tight race with Indiana for the last playoff spot in the East, and is also trying to catch New Jersey for seventh place. The Sixers (33-45), meanwhile, are three games behind the Magic with four games remaining.

"Right now, Philadelphia is a big game for us," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "They can still get in the playoffs, so we need to beat them."

Following Saturday's game, the Magic have three contests left: Sunday at home against Boston; Tuesday at Washington and Wednesday at home against defending champion Miami.

Orlando is coming off a 104-99 loss at Detroit on Wednesday, its third defeat in five games. The Pistons led by as many as 18 points in the first half, but the Magic tied the game with 1:35 left before Detroit scored the next five points to pull away.

"That's a tough loss," said Jameer Nelson, who had 17 points and seven assists. "We played a better second half, but it's hard to spot the No. 1 team in the East a lead like that. If we get in the playoffs, we can beat anybody. I don't care who it is."

Grant Hill had 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting for the Magic, who fell to 13-26 on the road, including a 4-10 mark since the All-Star break.

These teams have split two meetings this season, both played in Orlando. The Magic won the most recent matchup, 86-84 on Dec. 9, as Dwight Howard had 28 points and Hill added 23 to lead Orlando.

That game was one of the last with Chris Webber and Allen Iverson still in Philadelphia, although Iverson did not play in the contest. Both have since been traded, and despite losing their two biggest stars, the Sixers have done surprisingly well after entering the break with a 17-36 record.

Philadelphia has won three straight, including a 102-94 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday, to improve to 16-9 since the All-Star break. The Sixers shot a season-high 56.2 percent from the field and had six players score in double figures - four of which had more than 15. Steven Hunter led the Sixers with 20 points and seven rebounds, and Andre Miller added 19 points.

"We had a lot of nice performances from everyone," coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Leading scorer Andre Iguodala was sidelined with a strained lower back while reserves Kyle Korver (sprained wrist) and Rodney Carney (sprained knee) also sat out. Iguodala is listed as questionable for Saturday, while Korver is doubtful and Carney is day-to-day.

With a victory Saturday, Philadelphia would win its first season series against the Magic since 1998-99.

After this game, Philadelphia visits Detroit on Sunday, faces Cleveland at home Tuesday and visits Toronto on Wednesday to close out the season.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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