The Orlando Magic (15-24) are getting further and further away from a playoff spot as they continue to watch their season slide away. They only have one win in their last six games and if they continue with these performances, will be out of contention for the postseason. They lost against the Lakers at the Staples Center 111-95 in a game where they managed to score just nine points in the third quarter. Serge Ibaka had a double-double grabbing 10 rebounds and Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic also added 10 boards apiece. Bismack Biyombo also had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards, while Aaron Gordon had just two points without making at least one field goal and missing all five of his shots. He, Jodie Meeks, DJ Augustin and Elfried Payton combined for six field goals from 27 attempts. Orlando got off to a surprising start to their season but are slowly starting to show us their true colors. The team is strong inside but lack the cohesion to play a full 48-minute game.
After four straight wins, we can say without any hesitation that the Los Angeles Clippers (26-14) are back in the saddle. They defeated the injury-riddled Miami Heat 98-86 in a game where they didn't put a lot of effort in. They were leading by 24 points in the final quarter, but eventually allowed the visitors to cut that deficit in half. In this game, the Clippers had almost twice as many assists than the Heat, 27 compared to 14 for Miami, but LA's team had a poor 3-point shooting performance, hitting just nine shots from behind the arc out of 30 attempts.
JJ Redick replaced Austin Rivers who missed this game because of an illness and dropped 25 points on the Heat defense, adding seven rebounds to that. Chris Paul had a crazy night in assists, dishing 18 times to his teammates and finishing the game with 19 points and six rebounds. DeAndre Jordan had the same number of rebounds as Paul had assists with 18 but only managed to score seven points. Marreese Speights was excellent off the bench with 19 points in just 14 minutes on the court. He shot 6-8 from the field and provided the perfect support for the Clipper starters. Raymond Felton had a solid game with seven points, five assists and seven rebounds as he continues to play second fiddle to Paul. The Clippers have no doubt put their season in high gear and will be looking to challenge for a top spot in the Western Conference.
Keys to the Game
- Domination in the air since they have the stronger frontcourt and have enough players to stop DeAndre Jordan who is among the top rebounders in the NBA.
- As we said, their backcourt had an awful shooting night against the Lakers and they have to improve that in order to win in this match.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Tight defense in the paint and around the perimeter, because Vucevic and Ibaka have been the Magic's top offensive options in the past few games.
- Chris Paul has to dictate the pace of the game as he has no worthy opponent on this Orlando team and should exploit that.
Orlando Magic Projected Starting Lineup
PG – Elfried Payton / SG –Evan Fournier / SF – Aaron Gordon / PF – Serge Ibaka / C – Bismack Biyombo.
Serge Ibaka will have a favorable matchup against Luc Mbah a Moute. Orlando need to play to the Spanish international as much as they can on the offensive part of the court.
Los Angeles Clippers projected starting lineup
PG – Chris Paul / SG – Austin Rivers / SF – JJ Redick / PF – Luc Mbah a Moute / C – DeAndre Jordan.
Chris Paul is a much better player than Elfried Payton and the Clippers point guard will know how to use this matchup to his advantage. Austin Rivers is supposed to be back in this game and if not, will have Jamal Crawford take his place.
I think that the Clippers are an absolute favorite in this match. Orlando is showing signs of crisis and cannot handle the Clippers at their usual level of play. I think that the adjustment of Blake Griffi's return from injury is finally gone and the Clippers have fully adjusted to playing under normal circumstances.
Tip-off is at 10:30pm ET - Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA