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Clippers Vs. Magic Preview: Please No Funny Business

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The 22-16 Clippers take on the 17-21 Magic in Los Angeles Sunday night, and will look to chip away at their four game deficit for first place in the Western Conference

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

Game Information:

When: 12:30 PM PT

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

Magic: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Avery Bradley - Tobias Harris - Danilo Gallinari - Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Magic: Timofey Mozgov OUT (Knee)

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute OUT (knee)

The Big Picture:

After a brutal early season schedule, the Clippers have the fourth easiest schedule in the NBA moving forward, and in January face 10 teams at or below .500. The Magic are one of them, and L.A. will look to take care of business against the middling squad Sunday Night.

Since returning from a strained hamstring in the third week of December, Lou Williams has been torching teams, reaching at least 15 points every game except for one. He has been the stabilizer late in games, taking professional scoring to a whole new level. Along with stalwarts Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers have seemed to steadied the ship after a rough stretch of schedule in December that saw multiple losing streaks. By the end of the month, the Clips looked as though they got their footing, though now have to strap in and take advantage of a softer month of games. Currently, the Clips are fifth in the West, but with this conference being historically close at this juncture in the season, every single game counts. Let’s hope L.A. doesn’t play down to their competition like they sometimes do, and has this game finished by the third quarter.

The Antagonist:

The Magic are young, long, aggressive, and play together. Most of the time however, this hasn’t equated to wins in the NBA. While they do have a soon-to-be first time All-Star this season in Nikola Vucevic, who’s playing like a man possessed in a contract year, the rest of the squad is letting Disney town down. After Aaron Gordon signed a four-year, $76 million deal this offseason to stay in the Sunshine state, he’s putting up less points, less rebounds, and a worse shooting percentage from the field than he did last season. In what many thought would be a breakout year for the 23 year old, Gordon has struggled to score the ball with any consistency, and is definitely second fiddle to Vucevic at this juncture.

The Magic also have young, stretchy guys like Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, who are both super raw but have high ceilings. Along with sharpshooter Terrence Ross off the bench, Evan Fournier, and D.J. Augustin, the Magic have shooters, but struggle to put it all together most nights, as they rank 27th in the league right now in scoring average. However, they rank eighth in the NBA in points allowed at 107.2. This game could turn into a defensive struggle, and that benefits the younger, taller Magic. If so, the Clips might be in for a long night.

Notes:

Defending the paint will be big: As mentioned prior, this Magic team is big and long. The Clippers tend to struggle with this type of team this season. In the last game against Orlando, Boban Marjanovic started and played well. He did a good job of getting Vucevic out of the paint and forcing him to shoot, as well as rattling the young Bamba. With Marcin Gortat coming off the best game of his season, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 boards against the Suns, let’s hope this hot trend continues.

Shai can dish: Another solid night was had by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the win over the Suns. While he got in early foul trouble and only shot 1-for-6 from the field, SGA set a career high of nine assists in only 19 minutes. It’s kind of surprising to see that the Clips starting point guard is only averaging 2.9 assists per game, but SGA is starting to pick up on flow a lot better and find the open man. Expect more sweet passing moving forward.

Patrick Beverley getting hot: In his last 13 games, Beverley is shooting a scorching 55 percent from beyond the arc, including going 4-of-7 last night against the Suns. Maybe it did take him this long to back in his groove from last season’s knee injury, but either way, Clippers fans are happy to see him knocking down shots with regularity. If Beverley can hit open shots, he changes the dynamic of the Clippers offense immensely.