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Clippers Hang On to Beat Magic, 113-108

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In a game full of career nights and game-narrowing scoring runs, the L.A. Clippers began their three-game road trip with a win against the Orlando Magic.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Gordon scored a career-high 33 points, DeAndre Jordan notched the 1,118th block of his career (now the all-time franchise leader), Raymond Felton played his 800th career game, and Austin Rivers led the L.A. Clippers to their 19th win of the season behind his 25 points, including 7 of 10 from beyond the arc.

The L.A. Clippers and the Orlando Magic both entered the day with a 5-5 record over their last 10 games. The Magic, who started the season 6-10, have been a decent defensive team through the season thus far, but have struggled offensively until more recently. The Clippers, who began the season very strong defensively, came in as the only team ranking top-5 in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating, but had clearly regressed a bit defensively over their last several games. Defense would still be the primary focus for both teams heading into the night, but with Nikola Vucevic still out for the Magic and Luc Mbah a Moute out for the Clippers, they needed to find creative ways to improve where needed.

Early on, offense appeared to come fairly easily for both the Magic and the Clippers. Multiple players scored for each team throughout the first few minutes. But several fouls slowed the game a bit, and the Magic managed to take a brief lead until the Clippers went on a small run; the Clippers regained the lead following a nice DeAndre Jordan post-up on Bismack Biyombo and a Chris Paul step-back elbow jumper, prompting head coach Frank Vogel to call a full timeout about halfway through the quarter, the first of the game. Following the Magic timeout, the pace of the game began to slow considerably for both teams, and never really became fluid again after that.

It became a game all about scoring runs, fouls, and three-point shooting.

Gordon Goes for Career-High

Despite pulling out the win, the Clippers had no answer for Aaron Gordon.

Gordon, known primarily for his athleticism and defensive ability, shot 13 for 21 from the floor, 4 for 8 from behind the arc, grabbed 7 boards, and was especially effective in transition throughout the game. No single player could consistently affect his offensive impact, and it certainly made Luc Mbah a Moute’s presence feel missed.

Rivers started at small forward for the Clippers, and despite being a plus-defender, Gordon’s size advantage took its toll early on; and even on switches, where bigger and stronger players like Jordan and Blake Griffin, became his primary defender, he finished or drew-contact much more often than not. Gordon was utilized by Vogel very well in this game, where we witnessed flashes of the brilliance so many have hoped to see for the 2014 lottery pick, selected 4th-overall by the Magic.

Hack-a-D.J.

For the first time this season, Hack-a-D.J. was in full effect. Unfortunately for the Magic, however, it was to no avail.

During this seven-possession stretch in the 3rd quarter, Vogel primarily assigned Damjan Rudez to foul Jordan on every inbound by the Clippers. Jordan, shooting just north of 50 percent from behind the stripe this season, made 10 of his 14 free throws during this stretch. Jordan made 12 of 18 free throws for the entire night, which accounted for nearly half of his 22 points in the game. While the hacking disrupted the Clippers’ offensive rhythm and pace, it increased Jordan’s confidence and might have been the difference in the game. In games where hacking is used against Jordan, it very rarely ever pays dividends.

Efficiency Beyond the Arc

For both the Magic and the Clippers, shots were falling from three-point territory all night. The Magic made 14 of 33 three-point shots (42.4%) and the Clippers made 13 of 25 (52.0%). Gordon and Jeff Green shot 4 of 8 and 4 of 5, respectively, from behind the arc for the Magic. For the Clippers, Rivers shot 7 of 10 from behind the arc, accounting for 21 of his 25 total points in his 38 minutes of play, and first game back from a concussion he sustained last week.

It Takes Everything

It was yet another game that was too close for comfort for the Clippers, but behind a balanced scoring effort and defense that improved as the game progressed, they managed to get their third-straight win. All five starters scored in double-figures, and three Clippers players scored at least 20 points (Rivers with 25, Griffin with 23, and Jordan with 22). The Clippers tallied 21 assists on 37 made field goals, and accumulated 42 total rebounds (topping the Magic’s 39). And outside of Rivers, no single Clipper played more than 35 minutes against the Magic.

While the Clippers can feel good about getting another road win, they still gave up 108 points against a Magic team ranked second-to-last in Offensive Rating. They also managed to finish the game tallying 11 turnovers, contributing to the Magic’s 13 total points off of turnovers. They are playing the right way, for the most part, but still have a lot to improve upon if they expect to continue to compete with the other elite Western Conference teams this season.

Up Next: L.A. Clippers at Miami Heat on Friday (12/18), 5:00pm PST