The Orlando Magic (20-46) are not having a very good time in their current five-game road trip. They’ve lost the first three games of that trip to the Jazz, Lakers, and Kings, bumping their road losing streak to six games in a row.
They were once again without two of their top scorers in Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in their 94-88 loss to the Kings last night. Gordon was placed in the concussion protocol while Fournier could be out for a while with a sprained knee. Nikola Vucevic was unusually quiet as he finished with just 13 points and five rebounds. Jonathon Simmons stepped up with 25 points and five rebounds.
They must now go out and face the Los Angeles Clippers (35-29), who handed the Cleveland Cavaliers a 116-102 beatdown last night. DeAndre Jordan had yet another dominant display with 20 points and 23 rebounds. He’s now put up 20 boards in three of his last four games.
Tobias Harris also continued his fine play of late with 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Lou Williams had an off-night as he shot just 6-of-17 for 15 points in a rare start, but Montrezl Harrell filled that sixth man role capably as he had 20 points in 20 minutes off the Clippers bench.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage – Both teams will be on the back-end of a back-to-back tonight. However, the Clippers will have the advantage of being at home during both games, while the Magic still had to travel back from Sacramento. As previously mentioned, the Magic have struggled mightily on their travels recently and won’t have much motivation to try whereas the Clippers are chasing that coveted playoff spot.
Nikola Vucevic – Vucevic had had a strong start to the month prior to his slightly underwhelming game against the Kings. With both Gordon and Fournier out, the Magic can’t afford another listless performance from their big man. Vooch will need to be a lot more aggressive offensively if the Magic are to remain competitive with the Clippers on the road.
Lou Williams – Williams was admittedly out of rhythm against the Cavs, which is understandable given that he was plucked out of his usual sixth man role and put back into the starting lineup. Luckily for Sweet Lou, he’ll have a great matchup to get him back on track as the Magic have been a sieve on defense.
Matchup to watch
Nikola Vucevic vs DeAndre Jordan – Not only does Vucevic have the responsibility of carrying the offense for Orlando, he’ll also have his hands full to keep DeAndre Jordan off the glass. That will be easier said than done given how dominant DJ has been on the boards in the last few games.
Magic projected starting lineup
PG – DJ Augustin | SG – Jonathon Simmons | SF – Mario Hezonja | PF – Jonathan Isaac | C – Nikola Vucevic
Clippers projected starting lineup
PG – Austin Rivers | SG – Lou Williams | SF – Sindarius Thornwell | PF – Tobias Harris | C – DeAndre Jordan
Simmons and Hezonja led the Magic in shot attempts last night and with the Magic in desperate need of any scoring, those two should continue to see a lot of the ball alongside Vucevic. Gordon and Fournier were also out the last time the Magic faced the Clippers and the two Magic wings had terrific games. Simmons had 20 points, six rebounds, and eight assists, while Hezonja had 17 points, nine boards, four assists, and three blocks.
As for the Clippers, Jordan’s recent dominance can’t be ignored. He’s had at least 17 points and 15 rebounds in three of his last games. He had a very similar line the last time he faced the Magic as he went for 16 points, 20 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Williams also feasted that night to the tune of 31 points and eight assists.
The Magic shouldn’t stand a chance in this game. Two of their best scorers are out and they don’t really have a reason to put in as much effort on the second night of a back-to-back. Meanwhile, the Clippers still have everything to play for in the tight Western Conference playoff race. Despite the massive spread, take the Clippers to cover as 11.5-point favorites.
The Clippers blow out the shorthanded Magic at home, 112-94.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket and Fox Sports Florida. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.
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