L.A. Clippers at Orlando Magic
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA League Pass)
Spread: LAC -4
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic are still not winning basketball games, but the team seems to be emerging from the rut it had been in, especially offensively. The Magic fell in a 117-114 shootout with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, on a last second triple by Kevin Durant.
The Magic are back in Central Florida to host the L.A. Clippers at 6 PM CT on NBA League Pass. NBA oddsmakers are favoring the Clippers by 4-points in the game.
The Magic ended an eight-game skid with a 119-114 win over the Boston Celtics, but fell the next night in San Antonio 107-92. The Magic are 21-27 and have won just two games in the calendar year, with 14 losses. The team is getting more consistent production though from its two youngest players, rookie Mario Hezonja and sophomore forward Aaron Gordon.
Hezonja is averaging 12.6 points over the last three contests after dropping his career high of 17 in the win over Boston. Hezonja hit four threes in the loss to Oklahoma City, with one coming to beat the first quarter buzzer and a long one to beat the third quarter buzzer. He appears to be worth the No. 5 overall the pick the Magic spent on him in the 2015 draft.
Gordon meanwhile had 30 rebounds combined in the win over Boston and loss to San Antonio. He scored a career high 19 points in the win over Boston, hitting 8 of 11 from the field.
When Gordon is at his best he can change games, as a guy capable of pushing it coast to coast and igniting plays in transition. Gordon is now starting for the Magic and it seems he is likely to stay there since he offers the team things that Channing Frye simply cannot. Gordon makes plays at the rim on occasion, and averages 1.2 steals/blocks in just 21 minutes a night.
The Magic’s most consistent source of offense is still Nikola Vucevic. He is averaging 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, and his dip in numbers has been mostly the result of the Magic’s more balanced offensive attack. Both Vucevic and Tobias Harris have seen their roles reduced as the Magic try to shoot more threes this season. Orlando still only averages 7.9 threes per game, but it shoots 35.8 percent as a team.
Victor Oladipo was one point off his career high with 37 points in the loss to the Thunder. Oladipo had been coming off the bench but is back in the starting lineup. Against the Thunder, Oladipo varied his attack with mid-range jumpers, three-pointers and aggressive plays at the rim. He shot 8 of 8 from the free throw line, and he has been trying to be better about initiating contact on his drives to the basket.
The Clippers meanwhile are trying to thrive without Blake Griffin. The team has won six of its past 10 games and is still seeded No. 4 in the West at the moment. The Clippers most recently fell 108-102 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but came into that game riding a four-game win streak that featured wins over the Chicago Bulls, L.A. Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers.
Without Griffin’s 23 points and nine rebounds per game, the Clippers have turned to Chris Paul to shoot more as well as more heavily featuring 2-guard J.J. Redick.
Redick is having a career year with 16 points per game while hitting 47.5 percent from the field and 48.2 percent from behind the arc. Paul has done his part, too, averaging 21 points and 7.8 assists per game over the Clippers past five. He had 27 points and seven assists in the 105-93 win over the L.A. Lakers Feb 29, and he is shooting 48.8 percent from the floor over that span, as well.
Redick has cooled over his past five games, hitting just 36 percent from the floor for 12.8 points per game. He did have 21 in the win over the Bulls, but he was good for just 1 of 9 from the floor in the loss to the Wolves.
The Clippers are a dangerous team with or without Blake Griffin, but it is hard to say that this team is the same level of contender without its star forward. His broken hand could take up to two months to fully heal it was reported, and that will push his return close to the time the playoffs begin.
The Clippers will then face the issue of re-integrating Blake to what is likely already going to be a well formed attack during his absence. Ideally, there is no lag time between Griffin hitting stride, but the Clippers cannot count on that.