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Clippers-Magic game preview: First road trip

The Clippers have left the state of California for the first time this season, and they went about as far as they can go, all the way to Florida. First up on this three game trip are the Orlando Magic who have been surprisingly good in the first week.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

November 6th, 2013, 4:00 PM
Amway Arena
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jameer Nelson
J.J. Redick SG Arron Afflalo
Jared Dudley SF Moe Harkless
Blake Griffin PF Jason Maxiell
DeAndre Jordan C Nikola Vucevic
Advanced Stats (2012-2013 Season)
91.1 (19th of 30) Pace 92.2 (14th of 30)
110.6 (4th of 30) ORtg 101.6 (27th of 30)
103.6 (8th of 30) DRtg 109.1 (25th of 30)
Maalik Wayns (meniscus surgery) out
Glen Davis (foot surgery) out

Tobias Harris (ankle) out

Solomon Jones (meniscus sugery) out

Doron Lamb (ankle) questionable

The Back Story (2012-13 Results, the teams split the season series 1-1):

The Big Picture:

The Clippers think it's the 70s. Los Angeles is averaging 119 points in their first four games, a number that has not been achieved for a season since Paul Westhead's Denver Nuggets in '90-91. Obviously the Clippers aren't going to score like that all season -- but sometimes it feels like they might. Chris Paul -- tied for second in scoring and easily leading the league in assists and PER -- has been simply amazing, blowing away even the very high standard we've come to expect from him. The Clippers newbies, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, each had their best performances of the season against the Rockets on Monday, which really just brings one word to mind: unfair. If that many Clipper weapons are working all at once, it's just not really fair. The defense has allowed more points per possession than any other team in the NBA so far as well -- and it doesn't even matter much. If Jordan Farmar can outplay CP3 again, I'll give the Lakers another win. But until that happens, it's a fluke, and the Clippers have handled the rest of their business fine. This is the Clippers first road trip out of the state of California -- they have tough games awaiting tomorrow in Miami and a rematch against the Rockets on Saturday. They need to get this win -- and they can't be looking past the Magic if they really want it.

The Antagonist:

The Magic were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league. Heading into the season, only the "actively in the process of making the roster worse in order to improve our odds in the Wiggins lottery" Sixers and Suns were considered worse than the Magic by most pundits. Shows what pundits know (silly pundits). The Sixers are 3-1, the Suns are 3-1 and the Magic are 2-2. The Magic are actually a quite impressive 2-2 -- their losses were on the road to the Pacers (the only remaining undefeated team in the league) and on the road to the Timberwolves in overtime. How are they doing it? I'm not entirely sure I know. They're getting nice contributions from a lot of guys, but nothing really jaw-dropping. They're just playing solid basketball on both ends of the court. Can they contend with the Clippers? We'll see.

The Subplots

  • The Questionable Blogger. Since I'm so befuddled by the Magic, I asked some questions of Evan Dunlap from Orlando Pinstriped Post. Be sure to check out his answers, and don't forget to head over to OPP to read my answers to his questions.
  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers were really good at offense last year, and pretty good at defense. They un-effing-believable good at offense this year, and terrible (but almost irrelevantly so) this year. The Magic were bad at both things last year.
  • Waking from a Dwight-mare. After playing the Rockets with Dwight Howard on Monday, it's interesting to see the Magic tonight. When the big trade happened in the summer of 2012, it looked to everyone like three teams won and one team lost. A year later, it's the complete opposite. The all stars in the trade -- Howard, Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala -- were all in the final year of contracts, and none of them remain with the teams that acquired them. Meaning that the Sixers, Nuggets and Lakers all have nothing to show (less than nothing, since they all gave something up, and they still owe draft picks to the Magic as well). Meanwhile, Arron Afflalo has played well in Orlando, Nikola Vucevic looks like a potential monster in the middle, and even Harkless has been pretty good. With three first round picks still on the way (some of which could be very, very good picks), the Magic really cleaned up in the process. All for Dwight Howard.
  • Vucevic. One of the pieces Orlando received in the four team trade that send Dwight Howard to the Lakerswas former USC center Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has started 81 of 86 games since arriving in Orlando and is looking like a significant NBA center. Recalling his college game, I thought of him as a face up center with a pretty decent 18 footer but a little soft. Instead he's been a rebounding beast who was second only to Howard in the NBA in rebounding last season. The battle of the boards between him and DeAndre Jordan could be key tonight.
  • Oladipo. The Magic chose Victor Oladipo out of Indiana with the second pick in the draft. Oladipo is a big time athlete who has the potential to be a defensive force in the NBA, though his offensive game is still raw. He was the star of the Orlando Summer League -- and given that no rookies looked very good in Las Vegas, he cold be one of the best rookies in the league this season. Arron Afflalo led the Magic in scoring last season -- but they're hoping that he's just keeping the seat warm for Oladipo at this point.
  • Young front line. Between Vucevic (23), Andrew Nicholson (24), Harkless (20) and the injured Tobias Harris (21), the Magic have some very young players in their front court who appear to have the potential to be pretty darn good. Along with Oladipo, they just need a point guard of the future and they could be in good shape.
  • Trade bait. With so much emphasis on the youth movement in Orlando, guys like the currently injured Glen Davis and the starting backcourt of Afflalo and Jameer Nelson could be on their way out before the season is over. Davis would look pretty good backing up Griffin and Jordan, and of course he had his best seasons playing for Doc Rivers in Boston -- but his $6.4M salary doesn't make a lot of sense for the Clippers. Not that Orlando would want Jamal Crawford in their current situation, but would you give up JCrossover for Big Baby? I wouldn't.
  • Clippers reserve bigs. After four games, we now for certain what we had suspected already: the Clippers have an issue in their backup bigs. For now it looks like Rivers is going with a three man big rotation of Griffin, Jordan and Mullens -- playing Griffin and Jordan as many minutes as propriety and foul trouble will allow. He'll also buy some time with small ball lineups when possible. It's hard to say how a small ball lineup would do tonight -- Jason Maxiell isn't very tall, but he's very strong, and Nicholson is a pretty big guy as well. Mullens had his best game as a Clipper Monday, which isn't saying much as you know if you saw his other games.
  • Collison and Barnes. Last season, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Crawford were the keys to the Clippers' second unit. So far this season, Barnes and Bledsoe's replacement, Darren Collison, have yet to get going on the young season. Although Crawford has been terrific, the Clippers have been pretty terrible when they've gone to their bench overall. The Clippers second unit has been pretty terrible -- it will be much better when Collison and Barnes get going.
  • Big game for Griffin? Looking at the Orlando roster, I'm not really seeing anyone who can handle Griffin. Maxiell is undersized, and the rest of the options are all very inexperienced. I'm feeling a big game for Blake.
  • As for CP3.... It doesn't take a pre-cog to predict a big game for Paul, but this I know. Paul LOVES to post up, and there aren't a lot of point guards in the NBA smaller than him. He's going to take Nelson into the post every chance he gets.
  • Miami awaits. The Clippers face the Heat tomorrow in a road back-to-back. Needless to say, that's going to be a difficult game. Equally needless to say, it would be nice to put Orlando away early and get some rest for the likes of Paul and Griffin and Jordan, who are going to be vital against the champs.
  • Connections. J.J. Redick played his first six and a half seasons in the NBA in Orlando. Matt Barnes was a starting small forward for the Magic in one season of his well-traveled NBA career. Ryan Hollins and Arron Afflalo were UCLA teammates for two seasons, and Afflalo and Collison were teammates for two seasons as well. Afflalo is an LA native, having played his High School ball in Compton at Centennial. Doc Rivers coached the Magic for four seasons (plus 11 games) at the start of his coaching career. Solomon Jones had a couple of 10 day contracts with the Clippers two seasons ago (sadly Jones injured his meniscus after making the Orlando roster and underwent knee surgery last week).
  • Get the Orlando perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Othello, Act I, Scene 3 -- Othello

    Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
    My very noble and approved good masters,
    That I have ta'en away this old man's daughter,
    It is most true; true, I have married her:
    The very head and front of my offending
    Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
    And little bless'd with the soft phrase of peace:
    For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
    Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
    Their dearest action in the tented field,
    And little of this great world can I speak,
    More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
    And therefore little shall I grace my cause
    In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
    I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver
    Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
    What conjuration and what mighty magic,
    For such proceeding I am charged withal,
    I won his daughter.

    In this the third scene of Othello, the title character, a moorish (aka black) general in Venice defends his actions in marrying Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian senator, before a counsel of elders. Although Othello convinces the counsel of the rightness of his actions here, things don't end well for him -- or for Desdemona. That's why they call it a tragedy.