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Clippers–Magic Preview: The Road Trip Begins

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The only thing the Clippers have been consistent at this season is playing inconsistently. Embarking upon a 7 game road trip over the next ten days, this could end up being a pivotal moment in their young season; will they bond together or fall a part?

Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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5-4

5-7
November 19th, 2014, 4:00 PM
Amway Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
0-1 East 4-6
5-3 West 1-1
4-3 Home 2-2
1-1 Road 3-5
2-4 .500+ 1-6
3-0 .500- 4-1
5-4 L10 5-5
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Victor Oladipo
J.J. Redick SG Evan Fournier
Matt Barnes SF Tobias Harris
Blake Griffin PF Channing Frye
DeAndre Jordan C Nikola Vucevic
Advanced Stats
96.97 (8th of 30) Pace 95.84 (15th of 30)
104.9 (13th of 30) ORtg 100.4 (23rd of 30)
105.7 (23rd of 30) DRtg 101.9 (12th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Chris Douglas-Roberts (strained achilles) out
Aaron Gordon (stress fracture foot) out

The Back Story (Clippers and Magic split the season season series 1-1):

Date Venue Final

11/06/13 Orlando Magic 98, Clippers 90 Recap Box
1/06/14 Orlando Magic 81, Clippers 101 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

This season seemed like it could only be promising for the Clippers. This summer they were finally freed from the evil grips of Donald Sterling and were bringing back all of the key roster pieces from their best season ever. Early, into this season, the Clippers have been nothing short of frustrating. The seemingly only consistent part of their game is their inconsistency, whether it be J.J.'s jump shot, offensive and defensive execution, or just overall energy and focus. While they have shown flashes of a contending team at different moments this year, they haven't been able to sustain it, and for the first time Clipper fans have to deal with the sinking feeling of their team underachieving. The Clippers start a long 7 game road trip with the Magic tonight and face their real tests playing on the road. This road trip is nothing short of schedule brutality, including three back-to-backs and totaling 7 games in 10 nights. Maybe this type of adversity is just what the doctor ordered for this Clippers team, and a trial by fire can serve as the jumping off point for their season. If they Clippers can't bond together and start to figure it out during these next seven games, they could see themselves below .500 when returning to Los Angeles.

The Antagonist:

There have been many questions regarding the Magic's rebuilding process post-Dwightmare as they have toed the tanking line in past years in order to secure young assets and develop players by sacrificing any ability to compete in the Eastern Conference. Coming on year three of the rebuild, there have been some questions about when exactly a team can transition out of rebuild and begin fighting for contention and playoffs. While many may have predicted another year or two for the Magic, they may end up surprising some and currently sit at 8th place in the Eastern Conference. Nikola Vucevic, whom recently signed a long term contract extension, is developing into a legitimate NBA center, and Fournier has been playing out of his mind to start the season. They have yet to really get their rookies into the mix, Elfrid Payton is still looking to adapt to the NBA and his place in the Orlando backcourt, and Aaron Gordon just recently suffered a stress fracture in his foot sidelining him for the next few weeks, and they may still be lacking that go to star player. However, they have definitely graduated from tanking to being interesting and competitive and have an undoubtedly bright future.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers are going to want to heavily push the pace against the Magic in order to take advantage of their more athletic front line, and hopefully getting into sets early resulting in easy looks. The Clippers play at a much faster pace than the Magic, and so far, are a much better offensive team. However, the Magic have been better than the Clippers on defense this season, so something has to give; hopefully it's in the Clippers favor.
  • The Questionable Blogger. Check out the Questionable Blogger with Evan Dunlap as a preview for the Magic here
  • Bad road team? The Clippers have really only played one road game this season outside of the Staples Centers against the Warriors, and it didn't end up going very well. With the Clippers departing on a 7 game road trip in which they'll play the Grizzlies and the Rockets and the Heat and Hornets, this will be a real challenge for the team. If the Clippers can't find a way to pull together on the road trip, it could get ugly.
  • Winning Trades. People should just stop doing deals with Rob Hennigan, GM of the Orlando Magic. The Magic seem to make at least one trade a year that has people scratching their heads at first, until you look back and realize that the Magic undoubtedly won the trade. In the Dwight Howard trade the Magic were the only real winners coming away with Vucevic, Harkless, and Afflalo as well as picks. They Magic essentially traded 3 months of J.J. Redick to the Bucks for Tobias Harris. This past summer they traded Afflalo, on the last year of his deal, for Evan Fournier for a second round pick, and Fournier has looked amazing this season, shooting 50% from deep and averaging 17 points a game. Plus, Fournier is locked down under contract for the next couple years. If only we could trade GM Doc for Hennigan.
  • Defending Paul. Chris Paul has vocally said that it annoys him when opposing point guards don't guard him during a game. Against the Bulls, we saw Jimmy Butler take a lot of possessions on Paul and against the Spurs Kawhi Leonard got the call during the stretch run. The good news for Paul is that against Orlando, they hardly have any wings with the defensive acumen to be assigned to him. The downside is that Victor Oladipo himself is a long, defensive menace and will guard Paul throughout the night. Hopefully Paul should be able to dominate the point guard matchup.
  • Rebounding. Rebounding has been a constant thorn in the side of the Clippers as they seem to be constantly killed on the glass by their opponents, leading to more possessions and second chance points. The Magic are about league average when it comes to rebounding, but the Clippers still fall at almost the bottom of the league, thanks in large part to their terrible offensive rebounding numbers (some of which is a result of Doc's defensive system). This game features the league's two best rebounders based purely on per game averages. While DeAndre Jordan leads the league at 12.4, Nikola Vucevic is right behind him at 11.8. It will be imperative for Jordan to keep Vucevic off the glass as well as preventing him from scoring.
  • Shooting from Deep. The Orlando Magic currently lead the league in three point field goal percentage, coming into the game shooting a scorching 41.6 percent as a team. Evan Fournier has been prolific, making about 50% of his threes so far this season, and Channing Frye, brought in to expand the floor, is shooting a blistering 45%. Frye will present a tough matchup for Griffin, drawing him a long ways away from the basket. While shooting the long ball the best, the Magic actually shoot the 6th least threes in the league, hovering at about 17 a game. For comparison, the Clippers shoot about 25 threes a game at league average 34%.
  • Big game for Griffin? Looking at the Orlando roster, there aren't many players that seem like they will be able to contain Griffin down on the lower block. With Aaron Gordon out, Blake should hopefully be able to impose his will on Frye and others, hopefully resembling that flying lion from last year. After having to go up against Noah and Gibson on the Bulls last night, I'm sure that see thin Channing Frye across from him will look like a relief.
  • Connections. The other half of the Clippers starting backcourt, shooting guard 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. Beloved Clipper pro Willie Green was claimed by the Magic and is getting playing time for them. Doc Rivers coached the Magic for four seasons (plus 11 games) at the start of his coaching career.
  • Get the Orlando perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.
  • Wikipedia: Magic. Full disclosure, I love magic and perform magic (mostly cards) as an aspiring magician in my free time. Magic has many definitions, though stage magic is a specific type of performing art that entertains by performing tricks and illusions to mimic the impossible and supernatural. The first book of magic tricks was published in 1584 and some of the early influences on modern stage magic were Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (the inspiration for Houdini's stage name), John Henry Anderson, and Alexander Herrmann. Within magic, there are different categories and branches under which most effects fall under. While there is great debate over which categories exist some of the most common are vanish, transformation, restoration, teleportation, and prediction.