The NBA season is here. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2012-13 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks … months … this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
Los Angeles Clippers
Last Year/This Year: 40-26/28-8
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 107-102 in Orlando on Feb. 6
This Year vs. Magic: Jan. 12 in Los Angeles; Feb. 6 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Matt Barnes (Player, 2009-10); Chauncey Billups (Player, 2000); Grant Hill (Player, 2000-07)
Clippers games are an odd sight. Not so much because there is basketball, it is just that it is hard to believe the team finally got its act together long enough to be this good. I mean, the Clippers are THIS good at this point of the season.
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league and has completely control of a free-wheeling offense that might feature the best fast break in the league (yes, possibly even better than the Heat). That is because of the finishers the team has in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan running and, more accurately, attacking the rim with aggression.
And there is no rest with perhaps the best bench in the league. Jamal Crawford was leading the team in scoring off the bench and making life extremely easy for the starters. Matt Barnes has done what Matt Barnes normally does — not just killing people with his defense but slashing to the basket and hitting 3-pointers when left open. Then you have Lamar Odom working his way back into shape and providing the versatility.
But still, isn't it just weird that this is the Clippers?
There was a recent article talking about how odd it is to go to a Clippers game. The statues outside the stadium are for the big brother Lakers. The banners in the arena too. The lights are turned up on the crowd for Clippers games whereas the Lakers court is lit up by the contrast of the darkened crowd.
Yet, right now, there may not be a better show in the NBA than the Los Angeles Clippers. This is an extremely entertaining team and are running Showtime like the Lakers used to. Even Magic Johnson admitted as much.
This is not just about a perfect 17-0 December. This is a team that is deep and can go deep in the Playoffs.
The question is whether the Clippers can take that next step and compete for a championship. Los Angeles has the pieces and the leadership in Chris Paul to start with. Blake Griffin is still improving as a post-up player and a go-to scorer.
But can they do that when the chips are down? Can they do that when the game slows down and the fast breaks dry up? These are the big questions for the Clippers. Ones that will not be answered until May and June.
How the Magic Will Beat the Clippers: This is one of the few times that it might be best for the Magic to slow the game down. That is not quite Orlando's game, particularly with their struggles to execute for long periods of time with a half-court offense. The best strategy the Magic could likely use to get a win is to protect the ball and rely on their principles — strong defense and a streaky, but precise offense. This game will come down to being solid on the defensive glass (something Orlando is pretty good at) and getting back on defense to prevent transition points (something Orlando is not so good at). The more the Clippers operate out of the half court the better.
How the Clippers Will Beat the Magic: The Magic are fourth worst in the league entering Friday's game with a turnover rate of 14.5 percent according to HoopData. That does not bode well for Orlando entering this game. The Clippers are msot effective when they can get out in the open floor and run. The Magic are not great in transition. Turnovers are an easy way to get out in transition. Wednesday against Denver, Orlando gave up 18 first half fast break points and it was killer as Orlando tried to maintain a lead and potentially pull away. The Magic never could and we know what happened. A lot of those turnovers were the kind of live ball turnovers that lead to fast break points. L.A. will convert each of those into points, rest assured.