Orlando Magic at LA Clippers (March 18, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction
The Orlando Magic close their road trip with a Los Angeles back-to-back. They start with the LA Clippers in a matinee as they look for their first win of the trip.
Orlando Magic (28-42) at LA Clippers (37-33)
Time/TV: 3 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
WATCH MAGIC-CLIPPERS ON FUBO TV
FOLLOW LIVE: @OMAGICDAILY
Line: Clippers by 7
Tickets: $12-$2,520 on StubHub
Season Series: Magic 116, Clippers 111 in Orlando on Dec. 7; Today in Los Angeles
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The Orlando Magic are desperate for a win now.
The postseason chase is starting to slip away from the team — 4.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls with 12 games to go, the elimination number is nine losses or nine Bulls wins. Each loss is going to feel very heavy the rest of the way. And the only way to relieve that pressure is to win — although the task is made tougher by how many teams the team has to climb over.
For now, the Magic can and should only focus on themselves. That has been the point of talking about the postseason chase anyway. It is about the pressure and expectations the team puts on itself. And right now, the team is struggling to meet that standard.
Thursday’s game was important for the Magic to recover from Tuesday’s poor effort. Orlando at least got its effort back even if their focus and precision were not on point. The Magic are certainly competitive enough to win these games, even if there are still self-inflicted wounds.
Orlando has to find that spark to win again. The team will have to do it Saturday without Jalen Suggs (OUT in concussion protocols). But the LA Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard (right knee injury management).
3 Keys To Watch
Offense has been sparking
The Orlando Magic want to be a defensive team. And the defense has been. . . rough . . . through much of March. The Magic have to get their defense back under control to win games. Especially going up against a tough defense like the one the LA Clippers have.
The Magic though are starting to perk up offensively. That is thanks in large part to Paolo Banchero getting out of his February slump and Franz Wagner following suit.
Wendell Carter is scoring at a good clip. Markelle Fultz is playing the best offensive basketball of his career. There are just a lot of things going in the Magic’s direction that have largely helped hide some of the defensive problems.
Orlando has a 111.6 offensive rating this season, ranked 25th in the league. In the last 10 games, the Magic are up to 19th in the league at 113.6 points per 100 possessions. And in the last five games, Orlando is scoring 114.9 points per 100 possessions. That is good for 11th in the league.
Of course, this has not made up for the team’s defensive slipping. And offenses tend to increase later in the season as everyone starts to look ahead to the playoffs. But the Magic’s offense is playing well enough to win games. They just need to get stops.
Cole at his best
The Orlando Magic’s offense has started to spark in large part because of their guard play. Markelle Fultz has been outstanding in March — 17.0 points per game and 6.3 assists per game.
But so has Cole Anthony coming off the bench. After his own shooting struggles, Anthony is providing an important scoring punch off the bench.
In eight games in March, Anthony is scoring 15.6 points per game and 3.4 assists per game on 48.4/44.8/85.7 shooting splits. He has really turned a corner and embraced his role off the bench and made a huge impact for a bench group that has often played better and made up deficits than the starting group.
Orlando for the season has a -1.9 net rating with Anthony on the floor (112.3 offensive rating/114.2 defensive rating). Only Franz Wagner has a better on-court net rating among regular rotation players (albeit at +0.0). In the last 15 games, Anthony leads the team with an on-court net rating of +1.2 points per 100 possessions (114.8 offensive rating/113.6 defensive rating).
A lot of this, to say the least, speaks to the Magic’s struggles with their starting lineup as much as anything else. But Anthony has really come into his own and his been mostly consistent for a Magic team that needs the boost.
Life without Kawhi
The LA Clippers will be without Kahwi Leonard for Saturday’s game as they continue to manage his persistent knee injuries and look ahead to the postseason. Leonard has played 42 games this season, averaging 23.8 points per game on a 57.0-percent effective field goal percentage. That is enough to keep people believing the Clippers could make a championship run.
With their defense, they certainly can. They still play with the intensity and scrappiness of a team that does not have two superstar players. And that makes them competitive. Even if the inconsistency and some of the trades that have changed the roster have hurt the team’s stability.
The Clippers are very good with Leonard though. They have a +5.8 net rating (117.7/111.9 split) with Leonard on the floor, a team-best. With Leonard off the floor (including in games Leonard plays), the Clippers have a -4.0 net rating (109.4/113.3). The Clippers’ offense just goes to the tank when Leonard is out.
This is a team that relies heavily on its stars — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George especially — to carry the offense. That is the opportunity the Magic need to take to right their defense and focus in on getting stops to stymie an offense that can go cold just like the Magic’s can.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.