The new-look Magic just delivered what was the team’s best win of the season.
Facing one of the league’s elite, who entered on a six-game winning streak and with the league’s top offense, the Magic fought back to overcome a 16-point deficit and shock the Clippers, 103-96.
The Magic got contributions from each member of their young core and new additions - none more so that Chuma Okeke - and the team celebrated like it was a playoff game after they helped do something Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier never could in their time in Orlando: beat the Clippers.
The Magic finished strong, but started slow.
The game wasn’t yet two minutes old when the Magic already found themselves down double digits. The Clippers scored the first 10 points of the game, capped by a Luke Kennard three off an offensive rebound that led to an early Steve Clifford timeout. The Magic’s first points came 3:20 in when Michael Carter-Williams found Khem Birch for the baby hook to make it 12-2. It was the start of what would be six straight points for Birch, capped by a to-handed dunk off a pretty feed from Chuma Okeke....
@chuma_okeke → @Khem_Birch pic.twitter.com/L0PgE20XuM— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
Mo Bamba was first off the bench for the Magic and hit a jumper on his first possession to bring the Magic within 19-12. That would be the Magic’s final field goal of the quarter as the two teams then went on a lengthy scoring drought that ended with a Patrick Patterson three against a Magic zone with 1:51 remaining.
The Magic shot 6 of 22 in the quarter (28.6 percent), missing all three of their three-point attempts. The Clippers shot 55 percent, going 4 of 8 from three, and led 26-13 after the first. Terrence Ross made his return after missing seven game with a knee injury, but he missed all three of his shot attempts as the Magic bench shot 1-for-9 in the quarter Otto Porter and R.J. Hampton both got some first quarter minutes.
Ivica Zubac scored 10 quick points on the Magic, all on dunks, the last of which came after Bamba put up a wild reverse-layup attempt at one end and then didn’t hustle back in time to get into position to prevent the easy dunk by Zubac.
Big Zu making his presence felt— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 31, 2021
@FoxSportsWest | @ivicazubac pic.twitter.com/oY9KNSSa4R
The Magic went nearly seven minutes without a field goal, until Bamba had a left-handed block on a dunk attempt by Reggie Jackson and then drained a three at the other end off a kick out from Porter to make it 30-18 with 9:17.
Left-handed block on defense— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
Right on the money from three@TheRealMoBamba | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/8Pg0UqK2J1
Wendell Carter Jr. then checked in for Bamba and scored five quick points, including his first three with the Magic, to pull Orlando within 34-23. Carter scored seven points in nine second-quarter minutes, despite the Magic being unable to get him the ball in the post and he battled for and established position.
A three-point play by Porter was negated by a three by Jackson. The Magic were eventually able to get within single digits when Ross hit a three to cut the deficit to 46-37 with 1:28 left.
Happy to have the Human Torch back on the floor @TerrenceRoss | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/6sqHXdt2Qp— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
But the Clippers closed the half on a 5-0 run, with Kennard hitting a jumper just before the buzzer, to take a 51-37 lead into the half.
Orlando shot 32.6 percent in the half (led by Birch’s eight points and Carter’s seven) while the Clippers shot 51.3 percent (led by Kawhi Leonard’s 14 points and Zubac and Kennards 10 points each).
Okeke did a little of everything in the third, getting the Magic comeback started with some key defensive plays.....
@chuma_okeke | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/7aaTXym0lR— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
The Magic shooting improved drastically in the third as they went on a 10-0 run - highlighted by a three-point play by Ennis, a three by Bamba, and a put-back by Okeke after he kept the ball alive - to pull within 62-57 with 4:48 left.
Hampton followed with a nice sequence, knocking down a jumper and on the next possession driving the lane and kicking it out to Okeke for the three to make it 67-62.
Free throws by Bamba and Porter soon made it a one-possession game at 71-68 with just under one minute remaining in the third. Okeke had nine points and Bamba added seven in the quarter as the Magic went into the fourth trailing 73-70 after shooting 48 percent and outcoring the Clippers 33-22 in the third. They forced five turnovers by the Clippers in the quarter and held them to 34.8 percent shooting, as they made only 2 of 13 threes.
The two teams traded baskets in the fourth until Patterson and Amir Coffey hit back-to-back threes to put the Clippers up 83-74 with 8:25 remaining. Porter responded with buckets on the next two Magic possessions to cut the deficit to 83-78.
After the Clippers pushed the lead to nine with 3:48 left, Okeke ignited one final run that turned the game around. He gave Kawhi Leonard a taste of his own medicine, pushing off to set himself free and then knocking down the pull-up jumper. He later converted a tip-in plus the foul while surrounding by Clippers to cut the deficit to 93-89 with 2:20 left. After a dunk by MCW and two free throws by Ross to tie it, Carter blocked a drive by Jackson at one end and then tipped in the go-ahead bucket at the other to cap a 13-2 run and give the Magic a 95-93 lead. With the Magic up four following Porter’s lay-in, Carter came up with yet another huge block...
Big defensive plays from our new addition.@wendellcarter34 | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/vBqbm258CO— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
After a pair of free throws by MCW increased the lead to three with 19 seconds left, Leonard missed a pull-up three and, after an offensive rebound, Jackson missed a corner three. Leonard then grabbed the loose ball and tried to retreat behind the line, but MCW stripped the ball and raced down court for a one-handed slam that sealed the game and caused the Magic bench to erupt as what was once a 16-point deficit became a thrilling comeback win.
@mcarterwilliams | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/bcoSZmORWQ— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2021
The Magic closed the game on a 19-5 run to beat the Clippers for the first time since 2013, snapping what was a 14-game losing streak.
Okeke finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Four reserves finished in double figures for the Magic: Ross with 15 as he got to the line (8-for-8) despite 3-for-12 shooting, Porter had eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, Bamba showed confidence in his shot (despite shooting just 4 of 10) and had 12 points and 8 rebounds, and Carter had a perfect shooting night with 11 points to go along with six rebounds and three crucial blocks. The Magic shot just 41 percent but managed to score 21 second-chance points, get 50 points in the paint and knock down 22 of 25 free-throw attempts in what was their signature win of the season to this point.
The Magic’s West Coast trip continues on Thursday as they get their first look at Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.