The Big Picture
Clippers back? The 2017-18 season has been a largely discouraging one in Clipper nation, but L.A. has quietly picked up back-to-back wins over a couple of likely playoff teams in the Wizards and Raptors. The playoffs still look like something of a longshot for a team continuing to battle injuries, but it’s still good to see the team showing some fight and playing with energy.
The victory over the Raptors two nights ago was arguably the Clips’ best game of the season. Toronto came into the game winners of six straight, yet the Clippers shut down what had been a red-hot offense. The Raps had scored at least 110 points in five of their last six games, but the Clippers managed to hold them to just 91 points on 40 percent shooting from the field.
Following a brief string of home games, the Clips are set to embark on a tough four-game road swing that will take them through Orlando, Miami, DC and San Antonio. Danilo Gallinari is set to miss a few games after aggravating his butt injury, but Milos Teodosic made his long-awaited return the other night against the Raptors. Milos made his presence felt in his return, as he contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
LAC has a golden opportunity to pick up their third straight win tonight against a wounded Magic club.
The Clippers don’t really want to hear about other teams’ injury problems, but the Magic will be shorthanded themselves tonight. Evan Fournier is set to miss his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle, while rookie Jonathan Isaac is likely to miss his 16th straight game with an ankle problem of his own. Both Aaron Gordon (concussion) and Arron Afflalo (back spasms) are listed as questionable.
Orlando started the season surprisingly well, but they have since gone back to being the same old Magic. Orlando enters the game just 11-17 on the season, and they have won just three of their last 16 games overall. That includes a discouraging 117-110 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks - owners of the worst record in the NBA - last time out.
One bright spot for the Magic has been the continued excellence of Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic continues to fly under the radar despite putting together quality season after quality season. Vuc is being leaned on heavily with the Magic missing several key players. With Gordon out of the lineup against the Hawks, the ex-USC center logged 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in 38 minutes of work.
The Magic are also leaning heavily on former Spurs great Jonathon Simmons. Simmons has played at least 33 minutes in each of his last eight games, and he’s averaging 19 points and 5.5 rebounds per game since the calendar flipped to December.
Gordon said on Tuesday that he’s symptom-free, but the Magic announced early Wednesday that he’ll remain sidelined for tonight’s game. Former lottery pick Mario Hezonja started in Gordon’s spot against the Hawks over the weekend.