With Iguodala Out; Sixers’ Youngsters Presented with Important Challenge

ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

For the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday night’s game against the Orlando Magic was first seen as a huge test for the entire squad. Dwight Howard is back from a one-game suspension for the fourth-seeded Magic, but for the Sixers, Andre Iguodala will not be in tonight’s lineup.

“The number one thing for us is getting healthy,” said Doug Collins, outside the Sixers’ locker room on Monday. “Dre is not going to play tonigh. After the game the other night, I think he sort of felt a few days rest would do him good.”

So, maybe tonights game will not be much of a test for the playoffs, but rather an assessment for the youngsters on the squad, examining the truth of their depth leading to the post-season. The Sixers’ deep bench will be put on display tonight. With the centerpiece out, be sure to see another step up. Not only will tonight’s game allow more minutes for the rest of the team, but it will allow Iguodala to rest and regroup for the start of the playoffs.

“I want him to mentally be fresh and sharp and I think that knee has taken a little bit of a toll on him,” said Collins. “I think it has probably restricted some of the things he can do and that is a source of frustration when you’re an athlete and all the sudden your struggles are not caused by anything other than the fact that you’re not 100 percent.”

Trust Collins on this one. If Iguodala goes into the post-season, nursing and favoring his knee, it will obviously take away from his fast-paced style of play. A struggling Iguodala will leave the Sixers with little hope.

“I think it can help a little bit.” said Andre Iguodala on Monday, speaking about his banged-up knee. “We’ve been staying on top of it, doing a lot of strengthening exercises and it kind of takes away from it when you go out and get some pounding in it.”

It’s  strong possibility that the 76ers could be matched up against the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Anyone that is a fan of basketball knows about the Heat and their set of three all stars, but other than them, they really don’t have much else. With that being said, the Sixers’ strength is the Heat’s weakness.

Tonight’s game against Orlando is actually larger than most would think. Other than a quick 3-second update, ESPN will most likely look past tonight’s game in Philadelphia, but for the Sixers, the importance of going into the playoffs hot is more than vital. Their recent struggles were put to an end in Friday night’s win against the Toronto Raptors. At best, the 76ers could finish the season with 43 wins.

Finishing above .500 will be good for this young team’s ego and confidence can go a long way. Don’t expect them to take these remaining two games lightly, regardless of who is out injured.

Notes: Louis Williams recently stated that his hamstring is improving and Elton Brand will continue to play through his injured, left hand.

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