Battered 76s put themselves to the test against Magic

The injury-plagued Philadelphia 76ers are looking to avoid falling below .500 in the season when they visit the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Philadelphia lost Wednesday for the second time in three games to the Charlotte Hornets in a 107-101 setback.

Shake Milton had 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and De’Anthony Melton added 20 points, six boards and four steals in the loss. The two dovetailed well playing in place of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey who are struggling with related foot injuries.

“He’s easy to play with, someone who’s so versatile, who can do so many things offensively and defensively, it’s just really easy to bounce ideas off of him,” Milton said of Melton. “When you’re on the court with him and you’re able to find a rhythm with him, it’s just about people who really know how to play basketball, whether it’s cutting, releasing pin-downs, passing the ball, defending to play .”

Another player who has an injury for the 76ers is star Joel Embiid, who is struggling with a left metatarsal sprain. The five-time All-Star averages 32.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.

In Embiid’s absence, Tobias Harris and Montrezl caught up with Harrell on Wednesday with 19 and 16 points, respectively.

“I thought we played great,” said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers. “Honestly, I think we’ve run out of gas. I haven’t seen anything negative that we can say about this game.”

While the 76ers were effectively stuck at idle, the Magic went backwards with losses in four of their last five games — including two straight to the Indiana Pacers.

Franz Wagner scored 29 points in Orlando’s 114-113 setback against Indiana on Saturday and added 20 more in a 123-102 loss on Monday.

Star rookie Paolo Banchero sat out those two games and the last seven overall with a sprained left ankle sustained in the fourth quarter of a 134-127 loss to the Houston Rockets on Nov. 7.

Banchero, the top overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft, returned to practice Wednesday. His availability for Friday’s game will be determined based on his reaction to the training session and treatment.

“I feel good,” said Banchero. “It was good to just come back. It’s been a while. I have observed a lot. So I was just happy to be out there.”

Banchero got off to a flying start to his NBA career, averaging 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 11 games.

“I was definitely in a good rhythm,” said Banchero. “I definitely felt like I was improving (and) just learning with every game. After every game I watched a lot of films with the coaches and I just felt a gradual improvement. It sucks that I got injured in the middle of a good game like that, but I look forward to coming back whenever I do and just picking up where I left off.”

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