The new-look Magic get another crack at it in Los Angeles.
This time, following a 96-93 loss to the LeBron-James-and-Anthony-Davis-less Lakers, they take on the other tenants of Staples Center: the 32-16 Clippers.
It’s the second game of a very challenging five-game West Coast trip for the Magic, who have dropped 13 of their last 15 games. Even with the changes in the Magic’s lineup and expectations following the trade deadline fire sale, Steve Clifford was not happy following their loss to the Lakers, scolding the team for their undisciplined defense, unnecessary fouling, and inability to box out on free throw attempts that contributed to the loss.
After practice on Monday, Clifford was asked how he balances preventing a rebuilding team from developing bad habits while also understanding limitations given the circumstances.
“That’s the whole challenge,” Clifford said. “To me, its always the same way, right, is you have to study your team. And you have to know where your team is at because. It’s like anybody’s job, how do you have a good day? You have a good idea of where you’re at and what you have to do. And my job is no different. So what you do is you study your team and you make the best decisions on that day so that your team can make progress and go forward. Basically the games tell you whether or not you’re working on the right things. So its evaluation and then its decision making.”
Part of that decision-making will be how and when to use the Magic’s younger players like R.J. Hampton over the veterans like Dwayne Bacon, both of whom set career-highs (Bacon with 26 and Hampton with 10) against the Lakers, and how to balance playing time among Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba.
Michael Carter-Williams is expected to play against the Clippers after leaving Sunday’s game with a knee contusion, an injury that Clifford said “hurt us a lot, big factor in the game” despite MCW’s 0-for-6 shooting performance. The injury led to Chasson Randle starting the second half, and Hampton getting some minutes at the point that showed he’s better suited at shooting guard.
The Magic could also be getting some help offensively with the possible return of Terrence Ross, who is listed as probable after being out with a knee injury.
Chuma Okeke over his last three games is averaging 17.7 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 62.5 percent from the field and a scorching 68.6 percent on 5.3 threes per game.
“I’m ecstatic,” Clifford said of Okeke’s play. “The biggest problem that Chuma has had, one the injury so he missed a few weeks there, but two, the fact that he’s had to play two positions. It’s been difficult. It’s very, very difficult for younger players to move forward when you’re asking them to do a bunch of things. To me, what I’ve watched in the past is you play them at one position, you get them with a certain playing group, which obviously we haven’t been able to do because of the injuries, so that he is comfortable and he has a good idea what is coming up in the game.
“This poor guy has had to play a bunch, he played some last night at the three and, I’ll say it again, he didn’t practice that at all until we started having injuries. So I think that he’s done well. He’s a very good competitor, he’s got a very good skill level. I think he’s made terrific progress.”
The Clippers have won six straight games, beating the Bucks on Monday without Paul George. They are expected to have George back for the second night of the back-to-back against the Magic. Serge Ibaka, Patrick Beverley and the recently-acquired Rajon Rondo are all out.
The Clippers - who cruised in their first meeting with the Magic in January, 116-90 - enter with the league’s top offensive rating at 117.4 points per 100 possessions, and they sit just outside the top-10 in defensive rating at 110.9 points per.
The Magic are listed as double-digit underdogs, but they’ve showed great effort in their previous two games against superior opponents, making for entertaining games despite the losses.
We’ll see if Clifford tweaks the starting five and inserts any of the newcomers to help matchup with a Clippers unit that is expected to include Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac and Marcus Morris Sr.
Who: Orlando Magic (15-31) at Los Angeles Clippers (32-16)
When: Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles California
TV: Fox Sports Florida