The Clippers had every reason to give away this game tonight. Sixth game in nine days, second night of a back-to-back, and reduced to an eight-man rotation thanks to a late scratch for Marcus Morris Sr.
They gave it their best effort to start the game, jumping out to a 12-0 lead, and they maintained that advantage through the first 46 minutes. Alas, LA only scored three points over the final 2:39, allowing Orlando to roar back for the improbable 103-96 victory.
The Magic are something of a mishmash roster since the trade deadline decimated their starting lineup. Brian Sieman joked during the broadcast that they had to wear name tags to shootaround given the amount of personnel changes. But what Orlando did have was fresh legs, having been in Los Angeles since their Sunday matchup against the Lakers, and the Magic’s young blood won the day in the fourth quarter.
While the Clippers shot 8-of-26 in the fourth quarter, Orlando made 11-of-21 while earning 13 free throws by relentlessly attacking the paint and taking 12 shots at the rim in the period. Meanwhile, LA couldn’t make its way all the way to the basket, and the team’s heavy legs manifested themselves on missed jumpers.
Ty Lue said the real problem came in the first half, when the Clippers should have been up by about 25, but seven turnovers allowed the Magic to stay in contact. After winning the first quarter by 12, LA only won the second by one and then lost the final two frames by double digits.
Kawhi Leonard led the way with 28 points and five assists. Orlando committed to doubling him as the game wore on, and he simply didn’t have enough help down the stretch. The only Clipper to make more than one field goal during the period was Ivica Zubac, and that was a product of him collecting four offensive rebounds.
There were some positives to take away, like Luke Kennard’s confidence to let the ball fly and Terance Mann’s improved passing around the rim. And the Clippers were in control for most of the game. Their lack of depth just finally caught up to them, and thankfully, they only have two games over the next five days.