The Clippers started off hot, swarming the Magic on defense and swinging the ball around on offense. This activity led to a quick 10-0 lead, and it appeared that the Clippers could bury Orlando early. This did not happen. The Magic swiftly made a run, and pulled ahead by the mid part of the first quarter. The bench came in and played ok, but the seesaw battle continued, with neither team able to gain a sizable advantage. The return of the starters for each team did not change this, and the Clippers went into halftime down 56-58. The Clips were able to score well enough on offense, but the play wasn’t pretty, with many bad turnovers and shots in isolation. On the other end, they seemed incapable of stopping the Magic’s (very) stoppable offense, leaving players wide open for easy jumpers.
The Clippers started the second half by allowing Vucevic to take a wide open three (swish), followed seconds later by a live-ball turnover leading to a dunk. Doc called timeout, absolutely furious. They turned their energy up for a bit, closing the lead to 1, but then fell behind due to a flurry of buckets by DJ Augustin of all people. Doc tired of his starters, and inserted Wes Johnson, Jawun Evans and Milos Teodosic a little early, leaving them in with DJ and Tobias. This makeshift lineup was able to slowly whittle the lead down until the Clippers tied the game at 87. A bucket by the Magic, however, had them up by two going into the fourth.
Fortunately for the Clippers, the Magic bench stunk things up to start the 4th, turning the ball over and taking several bad shots. This allowed the Clippers to get slightly easier looks in transition, and the deadly combination of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell took advantage, scoring bucket after bucket and creating a double digit lead by the halfway mark of the period. The Magic played better with their starters in, but didn’t have another run in them, and the Clippers’ defense was just good enough to generate semi-consistent stops. The final few minutes weren’t that close, as the Clippers coasted to the finish line.
- Consistent Tobias: Tobias Harris finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds, including a couple key boards in the closing minutes. He hit shots every time the Clippers needed them, and seemed capable of getting decent shots almost any time he touched the ball. This marks the eighth time in the last ten games that Harris has cracked the 20 point mark, and has done so on very efficient scoring. His rebounding has also been a pleasant surprise—he’s capable of double-doubles every night. Other Clippers have higher game to game upsides than Tobias, but nobody has been more consistent for the Clippers over the past month.
- Rough Night for Sindarius: A night after playing 37 minutes and doing a splendid job guarding LeBron James, Sindarius Thornwell had a rather less fun game against the Magic. He had 3 fouls in the 1st quarter, and picked another one not long into the 3rd. Worse, two of those fouls were on a three-point shooting DJ Augustin, and the other two were shooting fouls on Jonathan Simmons. Simmons had Thornwell completely flummoxed in the first quarter, bewildering him with shot fakes and dribble drives, making the rookie look foolish. Sin did make both of his shots and his free throw attempts for a tidy six points, but he’s in the game for his defense, and that part of his game was lacking tonight.
- Wes Johnson Reappears: On the flip side of the coin, Wes Johnson didn’t play at all against the Cavs, and was a clear part of Doc’s rotation tonight, earning 17 minutes. He also converted on all his shot attempts, and had a couple nice rebounds, yet was also typically invisible for stretches of the game. He simply doesn’t do much on offense, and his lack of awareness led to three bad turnovers that the Clippers could ill afford. Wes can get spot minutes here and there; 17 minutes just seems like a lot for him.
- Schedule Ahead: The Clippers have a couple days off before their next game against the Bulls on Tuesday, the start of a road-heavy stretch (seven of their next eight contests are away from Staples) that might determine their season. The Bulls game is another should-be-win against a bad team, but after that the competition stiffens exponentially. The Clippers have a road back to back in Houston and Oklahoma City on Thursday and Friday, return home to play a scorching Blazers squad on Sunday, and then have another back to back in Minnesota and Milwaukee. That’s five games in seven days, all against playoff teams, and it would be great if the Clippers pick up two wins in that hellish week. Any more would truly spectacular.
In short, this was a sloppy win by the Clippers, but an understandable one on a back to back against a bad team. They will certainly need to be sharper than this in the future, however, or they could find losses piling up very quickly.