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76ers, Magic missing key players for matchup

The Orlando Magic quickly were stuck in a bind Tuesday night in Houston at halftime of their 128-104 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Aaron Gordon left the game at halftime with right foot soreness and did not return. It left the Magic with a bit of a gap at small forward with Jeff Green leaving the team to return to Orlando to be present for the birth of his first child.

Gordon's absence was big for a team struggling to defend. Even though the Magic cut what was once a 27-point lead down to nine, the team could not get over the hump and get back into the game.

For an Orlando team that has lost 16 of 21 games and has not won consecutive games since just after Christmas, it feels like more and more bad news is piled upon them. Orlando, still clinging to playoff hopes, is fading fast and cannot seem to right the ship.

"When things are bad, it's very bad," Evan Fournier said. "It's just how it is. It's unfortunate, but we don't have a choice. We're going to have to deal with it."

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported an MRI revealed a bone bruise in that right foot. Gordon is officially listed as day to day. Gordon told the Orlando Sentinel following Tuesday's game he does not believe he will miss much time. But he also revealed the foot soreness is something that has been bothering him for some time.

Add that to an injured list that already features sharpshooter Jodie Meeks.

The Philadelphia 76ers, the Magic's opponent at the Amway Center on Thursday, can relate. They have been managing injuries to rookie center Joel Embiid all season. Lately, Embiid has missed the last six games and nine of the past 10 games with a left knee contusion.

Considering Embiid missed two years with a knee injury, the Sixers are rightfully cautious with their promising young center.

Philadelphia already announced Embiid would not play in Wednesday's 111-103 loss to the San Antonio Spurs and would not travel with the team to Orlando on Thursday.

The Sixers have some cover to help them while Embiid is out. Former first-round picks Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are capable backups to Embiid and have filled their roles well when called upon this season.

Okafor, especially, has had to step up as he has become the center of trade rumors with the NBA's trade deadline approaching.

"I was just going out there giving 100 percent all night," Okafor told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer on his approach. "Just giving effort, trying to help this team win. That's what I've been trying to do every day, and I'm going to continue to do that."

Okafor led the Sixers with 20 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He gave the Spurs bigs trouble, getting Dewayne Dedmon in foul trouble.

Neither team wants to be down key players, especially with the ground both have to make up to stay in the playoff conversation, even if only on the fringes. But both teams have had to adjust and fill in to keep their seasons alive.

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