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Shorthanded Clippers take down Magic in 106-104 win

Defense and threes secure third win in a row for the Clippers.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers beat the Orlando Magic, 106-104, on Saturday. And despite the absence of bonafide star and leader Paul George, the Clippers continued to play quality basketball. With this win, they achieve a series of “threes”: 3-0 record in the City Edition jerseys, three wins in a row for the first time since their seven-game win streak in early November, and three games above .500.

A barrage of threes at the start of the second half brought the game to within one after the Clippers entered the period down by seven. That is to say, the first half played out in typical Clippers fashion: a slow first quarter was followed by an explosive second quarter. The Clippers’ outscoring of the Magic in the second quarter led to a five-point lead going into the half.

The team’s activity on defense opened the game up for the Clippers offense. Justise Winslow and Marcus Morris Sr. especially were quick to punish sloppy dribbling and over ambitious passes from the Magic. And while defensive rebounding (or the lack thereof) was an issue for the Clippers earlier in the game, the defense overall played up to the stifling standard that it has set for itself this season. For one, Ivica Zubac, who anchors the entire defensive scheme, demonstrated an improved willingness to close out on shooters at the three-point line and even guard smaller players one-on-one — a testament to improvements in his game’s conditioning and modernity, respectively.

After an injury scare to opposing guard Cole Anthony, his return sparked a Magic run that tied the game up again at 57 apiece, five minutes into the second half. It’s worth noting that if the game was decided by shot quality, this game would have been a Clippers blowout. The Clippers defense still forced tough shots, the Clippers offense still generated easy looks. At times during this game, however, the Magic were able to make those tough shots and the Clippers simply couldn’t convert the easy ones.

And while the Wagner brothers’ aggression should be noted in the third quarter, Terance Mann demonstrated why he is held to such high regard in the Clippers fandom. With a handful of open corner threes that sunk straight through the net, Mann punished the Magic defense for not giving him that same respect.

Luke Kennard then opened the fourth quarter with a couple of threes, including a certain off-balance beauty. Kennard, who put up a strong case for earning the recognition as the Clippers player of the game, showed out in his second start of the season with 23 points, including seven 3-pointers.

The rest of the quarter, however, did not showcase the Clipper’s shooting capabilities quite as well. Despite that, suffocating interior defense from Zubac, a timely personal seven-point run from Reggie Jackson, and a 3-pointer from Kennard put the Clippers up by five with a minute to go.

After a few free throws from Terrence Ross and a huge 3-pointer from Cole Anthony tied the game with 23.6 to go, Reggie Jackson’s heroic step-back put the Clippers up by two with 2.2 seconds left, and effectively ended the game. “This what you do,” Lue said to Jackson. And Jackson did just that.

Clippers try to make it four, at home, against the Phoenix Suns on Monday.