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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After blowing a 27 point lead to the Boston Celtics last week, Dwight Howard said “we have to change.” Conventional wisdom suggests that even though he was talking about the Orlando Magic, what he really wants is to change is his entire team.
Howard and the Magic visit Philadelphia tonight in the midst of a three game losing streak that started with the collapse against the Celtics, followed by a 26 point loss to the last place New Orleans Hornets, and then a 21 point loss to the Indiana Pacers. The losses added fuel to the already burning fire of Dwight Howard trade rumors.
Still, the Magic sit at 12-8, third place in the Southeast division, and have, you know, the best center in the NBA (they have him at least at the time this was written). The Magic present the first in a week of games against top-notch opponents. After tonight, they’ll face the Bulls on Wednesday, the Heat on Friday, and the Hawks on Saturday. The teams have a combined record of 59-24. The Sixers sit at 14-6, but have been able to pad their record by beating up on bad teams.
With Howard in town, tonight would be an opportune time for Spencer Hawes to return to the Sixers lineup. Hawes has missed seven games with a strained achilles. Aside from his defensive rebounding and the flow and versatility he adds to the Sixers offense, guarding Howard takes its toll, and as many fouls as possible. Tony Battie has shown he’s good for about 10 minutes a game, newly aquired center Francisco Elson is just not that good, and forwards Elton Brand and Lavoy Allen are terribly undersized in guarding Howard. The Sixers have said Hawes’ return tonight is possible.
Another tough match-up for the Sixers is forward Ryan Anderson. Anderson is 6’10″ and averaging a career high 16.3 points per game, including a 43% from three point range.
Chester native and St. Joseph’s product, Jameer Nelson will not play for the Magic tonight, having suffered a concussion on Friday night against the Hornets.
**UPDATE** Spencer Hawes is out tonight and Nikola Vucevic is a game time decision according to Derek Bodner via Twitter.