The Clippers took the lead for the first time in this game during the third quarter at the 5:13 mark, 64-63. They took their last lead a couple of minutes later, 69-68. They missed their next 11 shots and over the next 12 minutes of basketball, they were outscored 23 to 8. Orlando coasted to the 97-86 win.
Yes it was an all to familiar fourth quarter scoring drought. But this time, you really have to credit the Orlando defense. With Dwight Howard blocking a season-high 7 shots and Anthony Johnson and Vince Carter draped on Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, the Clippers simply got no clean looks down the stretch. So although the Clippers played some very good defense of their own in the second half and used it to briefly regain the lead, in the end the Orlando defense was even better, and good enough for the win.
It's actually pretty amazing that the Clippers were even in this game. When you take into consideration their 14 made three pointers, Orlando had an effective field goal percentage of 55% for the game. Including their 6 threes, the Clippers eFG% was only 47%. Orlando also took more free throws and got more rebounds.
Dwight Howard finished the game with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and the aforementioned 7 blocked shots. He even made 11 of 15 free throws. But at the beginning of the game it seemed as if he was going to score 40 or 50. He made his first 5 shots and had 12 points after a little more than 8 minutes of play. For the rest of his 35 minutes he was 2 for 5.
Gordon and Davis were able to carry the Clippers for awhile. But when Gordon had to leave the game for a rest late in the third quarter, the Clippers lost their momentum just as Orlando dialed up their defensive intensity. By the time EJ returned, the Magic defense was energized and the Clippers simply never got their offense going again.
Some random observations about the game:
- Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Magic's three point shooting is the way every non-center they play gets into the act. In this game, eight different Orlando players took at least 2 three pointers (even Dwight Howard had one, but it was an end of quarter heave). Of the 10 Magic players who appeared in the game, only Howard and backup center Marcin Gortat did not attempt a legitimate three. The team literally does not put any player on the court with Howard unless they can shoot. It's such a simple formula (if you've got the big of course) - why don't more teams just load up on shooters?
- Speaking of Gortat, he must be really peeved that Orlando decided to match Dallas' offer sheet. He played 5 minutes in this game. Why Orlando matched a $34M contract for a guy they're playing 5 minutes is a different story.
- Can we safely assume that Orlando was pretty worried about the Clippers if they decided to play Dwight Howard a season-high 43 minutes? Howard did not come out of the game in the second half. It seems like a strange decision considering how much they're paying Gortat and how well he plays when he's in the game.
- Chris Kaman had a horrible time on offense as Howard just overpowered him. But after the first quarter, Chris did a great job on Howard as well. During the second quarter, he had several steals and a handful more deflections. Maybe the milk is kicking in - Kaman was active tonight. His shooting (8 for 22) is still missing, however.
- Jason Williams is under 33% from the three point arc in his career. He's making well over 40% this season which is a career high by a pretty wide margin and he made 4 of 7 tonight. What is it about Orlando that makes everyone a better shooter when they get there? By the way, as I suspected Williams was booed whenever he touched the ball early in the game.