The Orlando Magic get a chance to respond to their frustrating defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers as they take on the still-in-trade-transition LA Clippers to complete their Los Angeles back-to-back.
Orlando Magic (2-1) at LA Clippers (2-1)
Time/TV: 10:30 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Clippers by 6/Magic Money Line: +215/Over-Under: 220.5 on FanDuel
Tickets: $9-$144 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Los Angeles; March 29 in Orlando
Our Prediction Record: 3-0/3-0 ATS
The LA Clippers won the evening with the late-night report they would acquire James Harden in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. There are still a lot of moving pieces and the players acquired in the trade are not expected to be ready to play for this game. That will leave the Clippers a bit shorthanded.
But LA did not give up any of its major pieces in the deal. The Clippers still have Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. And all three are playing very well on both ends of the floor. Save for a buzzer-beating shot from the Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson, the LA Clippers have dominated on both ends against the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.
To some extent then, the Orlando Magic represent the first real defense the LA Clippers will face this season. And we should probably be taking this Magic defense very seriously.
The bigger question is how will the Orlando Magic respond to last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers? It was undoubtedly disappointing to lose the lead late and fall on a last-second miss. But the Magic should still be confident they can hang with some elite teams and this will be a big test for them to pass.
3 Keys To Watch
The Paolo Problem
The Orlando Magic are going to have a depth advantage in this game with the LA Clippers swapping out several players awaiting the arrival of James Harden. The Magic are going to have an advantage there with one of the best scoring benches in the league. It feels like someone new is always stepping up for the Orlando Magic off the bench to save the day — whether it was Cole Anthony in the opener or Gary Harris against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic though still need their starters to come up big. And that has been happening less and less. They are extremely strong defensively, but struggle to score. And no one is exemplifying this more than Paolo Banchero.
As David Steele pointed out in Monday night’s “Is This Anything?”, Banchero had only four games last year scoring fewer than 10 points. He hit that mark Monday with just nine points in the game. He has just 35 total points in the Magic’s three games and is shooting 12 for 32 (37.5 percent). The Magic have been missing a lot with their struggles to get Banchero involved.
Especially now in a back-to-back — Orlando won only one game on the second night of a back-to-back last year — the team is going to need to be able to lean on its stars to carry it through. That is a missing element for this tea this year. The Magic have to get him going one way or another.
The LA Clippers have been feasting offensively so far this season. And that is even before James Harden arrives.
The Clippers are first in the league with a 61.2 percent effective field goal percentage, first in the league with a 41.4 percent 3-point field goal percentage and second in the league with a 120.5 offensive rating. Granted, that has come against relatively poor defenses from the Portland Trail Blazers (22nd in the early season in defensive rating), Utah Jazz (30th in defensive rating) and San Antonio Spurs (27th).
The Orlando Magic, by contrast are first in the league in defensive rating to start the season. This will be a test of the Clippers’ offense in a major way just as much as it is a test of how good the Magic’s defense can be.
Three-point shooting will be a big key to that. So far this season, Orlando is giving up 31.2 percent shooting from deep on 31.0 attempts per game. That is a strong number for Orlando considering how poor the team was against the three last year. But the Clippers will be an entirely different test.
Control the Glass
If there is a big weakness in the LA Clippers’ otherwise strong defensive start, it has been on the offensive glass.
The Clippers have a 67.5 percent defensive rebound rate, meaning the Clippers are giving up slightly more than three offensive rebounds for every 10 defensive rebounding opportunities. That further translates to 21.0 second chance points allowed per game, 29th in the league.
This was a big factor in the Orlando Magic having a chance to win Monday’s game. The Orlando Magic scored 22 second-chance points in the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. That helped the Magic make up for a poor 40.0-percent shooting performance. And to be sure, the Magic being first to loose balls and offensive rebounds is a big factor in their success.
For the season, Orlando has a 33.8 percent offensive rebound rate, third in the league so far, and average 17.7 second-chance points per game.
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