The Magic and Clippers enter tonight's contest as two teams fighting very different battles.
Orlando's season turned out to be just the latest chapter in their seemingly never-ending rebuild, with various injuries and an awkward collection of talents conspiring to send the team to a 20-46 record at this point of the season, good for third-worst. For the Magic, the remaining games are an exercise in evaluating their young talent and determining exactly what their lottery odds will be come June.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the bloodbath that is the Western Conference. Having overcome the departure of the team's two biggest personalities -- Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, in separate franchise-altering trades -- they've gelled around the heady scoring of Sixth Man of the Year candidate and All-Star snub Lou Williams, along with the dogged determination of G-League call-ups. They're a good chance to still be playing come the end of April.
After a dismal outing 24 hours earlier, Orlando will be hoping they can bounce back and show significantly more fight than they displayed in Sacramento. They're going to need way more from veterans Nikola Vucevic and DJ Augustin, both of whom were basically invisible during the first half, as well as free-agent-to-be Mario Hezonja, who was unable to step up in the absence of Aaron Gordon.
As a team the Clippers are a unit that doesn't really have one stand out strength, instead displaying league average competency in basically every area. Their offense has been surprisingly efficient and effective sans-Paul, particularly since the All-Star break. They do play at a quick pace, though (sixth in the league), and should they wish to avoid being ran off the court the Magic will need to be aware of this on the second-game-of-a-road-back-to-back (the rare and potentially horrifying SEGAROBABA).
There are plenty of questions facing the Magic heading into this one. Will the team show some resolve after last night's dispiriting loss? Can Hezonja step up as a lead scoring option? He's already a defensive menace, but will there be a glimmer of hope to suggest that rookie Jonathon Isaac will one day develop the ability to regularly put the ball in the basket?
And, perhaps most importantly, what time did the Magic arrive in the City of Angels and will the LA nightlife remain undefeated?
As always, be sure to dive in and join both the pre and in-game discussion below!