Stan Van Gundy Prepared to Do the Philadelphia 76ers a Huge Favor

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2010

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 11:  Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic reacts during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 106-103.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LeBron James could be a healthy scratch from the final five games of the Cavs' season. Kobe Bryant is no guarantee to suit up in the Lakers final two games, either.

Dwight Howard and Vince Carter, on the other hand, shouldn't be expecting too much downtime in the final week of the regular season.  

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has been repeatedly saying that he won't rest players in the final week of the season, emphasizing that the Magic are still in a battle for potential home court advantage if they meet the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"If we ever get there—and that's a long way to go—but I'd hate to be sitting there in the Finals going 'we could have had a shot at this if I didn't rest so-and-so for no damn reason','' Van Gundy said. "I'm not saying we'll get there, but if we do, I want every advantage and I think that's a lot more important than giving a guy a night off.''

He's got a legitimate point, which he made again before the Magic-Cavs game yesterday: Cleveland has nothing to play for (they have home-court advantage locked up through the NBA finals), but Orlando still wants to lock up a better record than the Lakers, who are a game behind the Magic as of today.

That's not such good news for the Magic's final two opponents...unless they're trying to tank. 

Enter the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Magic welcome the Sixers to Orlando on Wednesday for their final home game of the season.  If history holds to form, the Magic starters will get some hard-earned rest anyway, considering the game will be a 20-point blowout in favor of the Magic by the fourth quarter.

Ever since Eddie Jordan forgot to teach the Sixers fundamental defensive concepts such as "close out on your man" and "get a hand in a shooter's face," the Sixers have been downright awful at defending three-pointers.  They allow opponents to shoot 39.2 percent from downtown; for the sake of comparison, the next worst team (the Golden State Warriors) allows 37.5 percent three-point shooting against them.

In the Magic's three games against the Sixers this season, they finished 16-of-29, 15-of-23, and 16-of-31 from downtown, respectively.  

"That's what they do," Jordan said after the most recent game against the Magic. "They do it to everybody. It's not like we had major breakdowns on our 3-point defense."

That's the sound of a coach in complete denial.  (And the sound of a coach who's got two games left in his coaching career for the Sixers...break out the champagne on Wednesday!)

And speaking of being in denial, the Sixers broke out of their six-game losing streak on Saturday against Memphis, simultaneously costing Memphis a solid shot at finishing with a plus-.500 season and costing themselves a better shot at a higher lottery pick.

The Sixers only won two games in the first three weeks in March, firmly implanting themselves in the NBA's cellar with the Detroits, Sacramentos, and Washingtons of the world.  

After a two-game hiccup of winning in that final week of March, the Sixers looked to be back on track with that six-game slump of theirs.

76ers-with-playoffs-out-of-reach-time-to-go-young">Every game is crucial at this juncture; the difference between the third and the ninth worst records is only four games.  The third worst record would be guaranteed no worse than a top-six draft pick; the ninth worst could fall to the 12th spot in the draft if fate intervenes in the NBA lottery.

As of today, the Sixers hold the seventh worst record at 27-53, with the Knicks and the Clippers ahead by one game at 28-52.  The Sixers could pass the Pistons at 26-54, and with a minor miracle, they could move ahead of the Kings or the Wizards (both 25-55).

That's why Sixer fans should be applauding Van Gundy's decision to play all his starters in their normal capacities on Wednesday.  In fact, Sixer fans should be hoping that Philly rolls out a starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Jason Kapono, Marreese Speights, and Jason Smith to guarantee the loss.  (Although, given the way the season's gone, the Sixers' normal starting five should lose pretty convincingly themselves.)

Thanks, Stan, for ensuring you'll beat the Sixers this week.  I only wish they'd commit to losing these last few on their own.