For now, however, it’s still abundantly clear that the team misses Jameer Nelson.
The Magic look to bounce back from their latest loss in the absence of their All-Star point guard by sweeping their season series against the Philadelphia 76ers when the clubs meet Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Orlando (42-16) was 36-10 before Nelson left a game against Dallas on Feb. 2 with a shoulder injury. The Magic went on to lose that contest, the beginning of a 6-6 funk for the Southeast Division leaders.
The team acquired Alston from Houston on Feb. 19 to replace Nelson, who underwent surgery and will miss the rest of the season. Orlando, though, still hasn’t found a consistent rhythm with its new point guard.
Alston had 14 points and six assists in his fifth game with his new club Friday night, but the Magic fell 93-85 at home to a Detroit team that’s eliminated Orlando from each of the last two postseasons.
After the loss, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said his team is “a long way from being able to beat” Detroit and has to find a way to “get tougher.”
“One thing is you get tired of getting your (butt) kicked,” Van Gundy said. “It’s like the kid on the playground who’s getting beat up all the time and he takes it and runs home. At some point, enough’s enough, and he stands up for himself.”
Van Gundy’s team has been on the other end of that scenario in recent meetings with Philadelphia (29-28). The Magic have won seven of eight against the Sixers, including the teams’ first two matchups this season. They’re in position to sweep the season series for the first time since 1997-98.
The Sixers have won consecutive games after dropping their first four following the All-Star break. Andre Miller had 25 points and Thaddeus Young added 23 and a key block with 30 seconds remaining Friday night in a 108-103 victory at New York.
Philadelphia nearly blew a 22-point lead before holding on to complete a 2-2 road trip.
“We never get rattled,” Young said. “The game is over when there’s zeros on the clock.”
Miller, averaging 22.3 points and shooting 50.0 percent from the field over his last four games, has totaled only 23 points and shot 10-for-37 (27.0 percent) in Philadelphia’s two losses to Orlando.
Magic forward Rashard Lewis had 20 points and eight rebounds in Orlando’s 98-88 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 6, then scored 19 including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining in a 96-94 victory at the Wachovia Center on Nov. 26.
The Sixers have managed to contain Magic center Dwight Howard, who’s been held to averages of 17.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the first two meetings. However, this is the teams’ first matchup since Philadelphia power forward Elton Brand was shut down for the season with a shoulder injury.
Brand, who joined the Sixers by signing a five-year, $80 million contract over the summer, was integral to Philadelphia’s interior defense before the injury.