I have honestly thought about a million ways I could start this preview ahead of tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic, and not a single one feels like it can sum up what we saw from the Los Angeles Clippers just a few hours ago. “Never count us out,” was the sentiment echoed by a number of the players on social media, and even that feels as though it barely sums up what we saw. Only the fourth-quarter wails of resident commentator Brian Sieman feel like they do it in any justice. What a truly incredible effort.
You’ll know the story by now (if you don’t, where have you been hiding?). The Clippers, down several of their stars, looked to be down and out before the first half had come to a conclusion. The starters weren’t getting it done, and Ty Lue acknowledged that by taking three of them out of the rotation completely for the second half. The team on the floor then proceeded to follow up a 36-point first half effort with 80 points in the second. Amir Coffey, Luke Kennard, Isaiah Hartenstein and Terance Mann — come and get your flowers.
The biggest problem with the Clippers schedule this season is that, while fans all over the world stare out of windows and try to figure out what they just witnessed, the team tips off again in just a few hours. The pace has been relentless.
When: Wednesday, January 26 at 4 p.m. PT
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Magic: Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba
Clippers: Paul George, Keon Johnson, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Jason Preston — OUT
Wizards: Mo Bamba — QUESTIONABLE; Michael-Carter Williams, Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton, Jonathan Isaac, E’Twaun Moore — OUT
So, how do the Clippers replicate the energy they had in last night’s second half?
In terms of personnel, you’d hope that Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, and Ivica Zubac will all be able to acknowledge their shortcomings last night while being inspired by what they saw from their teammates after they exited stage left. Given how crucial all three of them are to this squad, they’ll need to step up tonight, especially if the guys who got the job done last night need the chance to rest up a little more. Eric Bledsoe will be similarly expected to go up another level in terms of minutes and contribution, while it wouldn’t be a surprise if Serge Ibaka was left out of the rotation altogether — though Coach Lue’s hand may be forced by the sheer amount of energy exerted by Hartenstein in Washington.
Fortunately, the Magic team that will play host this evening aren’t in the greatest shape. Despite a surprising win on the second night of a back-to-back against the high-flying Chicago Bulls, Jamahl Mosley’s team are still rock bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 9-39 record on the season. In terms of the matchup, they are bottom three for offensive rating at 103.1, bottom seven for defensive rating at 111.7, and second from bottom in terms of net rating at minus-8.7. With a number of their main guys out for the season, they’ve really had to make do and mend so far, and no doubt they’ll be wary of the Clippers coming off such a big win.
It could work in the Magic’s favour, though. Lue and company have won just two games on the second night of a back-to-back in seven tries. But even though the Magic will want to exploit any tiredness, they’ll know this Clippers team is never truly down and out. As the only team to overcome multiple plus-24-point deficits this season, you cannot shovel dirt on them until that final buzzer sounds.
So, how do the Clippers follow that one up? It will be tough, but as our guys proved once again last night, you should never bet against the Comeback Clips.