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Magic hang tough, lose late to Clippers

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Orlando falls 105-96 to their second L.A. team in four days

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic lost game two of their West Coast road trip on Wednesday, falling to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center by a score of 105-96. After a hard-fought third quarter, a three-pointer by Clippers’ center Marreese Speights early in the fourth would give the home team a lead they would never relinquish.

Orlando cut that lead to just two with six minutes remaining, but Speights quickly drilled another three to answer Gordon’s and end any hopes of a Magic comeback.

Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel said that the team played well overall, but failed to execute when it counted most.

“We didn’t stick close enough to their shooters”, said Vogel, “we got some good looks, both in the post and on the three-point line, and it’s a make or miss league a lot of times, and we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”

Wednesday night saw a Jekyll and Hyde effect within the Magic wings, as two forwards made their impacts felt on the game. Aaron Gordon feasted on the Clipper defense, scoring 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting. As effective as Gordon was, Jeff Green struggled mightily against his former team – converting only three of his 13 shots. Green finished with a team-worst –12 plus–minus rating.

One player that didn’t struggle against his former team was 2006 Magic draft pick J.J. Redick, now in a Clippers uniform. Redick showed that he can me more than a three-point shooter, scoring a total of 22 points with six rebounds and five assists despite going 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.

After a deflating effort in their last game, a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in which the Magic scored nine points in the third quarter, there was a noticeably different sense of urgency among the team on Wednesday. Even with that, however, the ghosts of the Magic’s recent issues were still alive and well.

The Magic shot only 42 percent from the floor against the Clippers, while allowing their opponents to shoot a blazing 51 percent. Orlando was equally cold from three-point land, registering a 22 percent mark.

The Magic’s active hands did pay dividends on defense, as their 21 forced steals helped to overcome these discrepancies.

Due to the absence of starting power forward Serge Ibaka, coach Frank Vogel tried out some unorthodox lineups. Aaron Gordon drew his first start at power forward since last year, and the sparingly-used Mario Hezonja got some extra burn.

Hezonja, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, saw double digit minutes for only the second time since the Magic’s loss to Minnesota on Nov. 9. He was 0-of-3 from the field with two turnovers, but did record two assists.

The Magic (16-24) will continue their West Coast road trip when they travel to Portland on Friday. There, they will face the dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, as well as former Magic players Maurice Harkless and Shabazz Napier.