Two days after escaping the L.A. Lakers' late rally at Amway Arena, the Orlando Magic will host the Clippers, L.A.'s other team, and look to extend their win streak to six games. The Magic beat the Clippers in L.A. earlier this season, but that came with both teams using much different rotations. The Magic didn't have Jameer Nelson available at point guard, so Jason Williams started and Anthony Johnson came off the bench. Also, Matt Barnes had yet to wrest the starting small forward gig from Mickael Pietrus. L.A. still employed Marcus Camby, Al Thornton, and Sebastian Telfair, whom they've since shipped out for Drew Gooden, Travis Outlaw, and Steve Blake. They also relieved Mike Dunleavy of his coaching duties, though he's still their GM, and replaced him on the sidelines with Kim Hughes. Another thing that's changed is the Clippers' fortune: prior to playing the Magic in December, they had a decent record at 9-11. But mediocre play since then, culminating in a 6-game slide in mid-February, has ended their playoff hopes. To compound that misfortune, they've lost 25 games by double-digits, tied with Indiana for the league's third-highest total. Thus, their point differential indicates they're worse than their record indicates. Their record stands at 25-38, but their differential suggests they should be 20-43, which would place them ahead of only Minnesota and New Jersey. Yikes.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|25-38 (7-24 road)
|44-20 (25-6 home)
|March 9th, 2010|
|Fox Sports Florida|
|Steve Blake||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Rasual Butler||SG||Vince Carter|
|Travis Outlaw||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Drew Gooden||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Chris Kaman||C||Dwight Howard|
|December 8th: Magic 97, Clippers 86|
|92.4 (19th)||Pace||92.6 (15th)|
|103.4 (26th)||ORtg||109.4 (9th)|
|108.9 (18th)||DRtg||102.9 (4th)|
I always caution against taking any team too lightly, and with the Clippers that's no different. Baron Davis is still an unrivaled chucker, launching 4 three-pointers per game at 27.9%, sure, but his size and post-up skills make him a tough cover for Nelson. Eric Gordon might not play due to a sore leg, but he's a tremendous talent as well, scoring 17.2 points per game on 58.2% True Shooting at age 21. Rasual Butler shot 34-of-75 on three-pointers last month. And the trio of Chris Kaman, Gooden, and Craig Smith can score inside fairly efficiently.
Against Dwight Howard, though? The Clippers--although with different personnel, as I noted above--shot just 15-of-31 at the rim against the Magic last time out, due largely to Howard's presence and, uh, 7 blocked shots. As Steve Perrin writes, Kaman actually hasn't had a bad game against Howard in his career, but he hasn't exactly been great, either. If Kaman and Gooden can hold their own in the post, and if they do a reasonable job crashing the offensive boards--Gooden's the league's 11th-best offensive rebounder--L.A. stands a chance tonight. I really believe that, especially if the Magic continue to misfire on their three-pointers. Discounting their absurd 15-of-23 performance against Philadelphia last week, Orlando has connected on just 33% of its treys in its winning streak.
Tip's at 7. Eddy'll be at The Am to cover the whole thing.