NBA Odds and Picks: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers

Tobias Harris is averaging just under 15 points per game and received a max-contract over the offseason.
Tobias Harris is averaging just under 15 points per game and received a max-contract over the offseason.

Time: 9:30 PM CT
Spread: LAC -2.5
Total: 196

Betting odds c/o Bovada

The Los Angeles Clippers are having their bumps: The team is 10-9 with a record inferior to the club it hosts, the 11-8 Orlando Magic, and the Clips are without its starting backcourt of J.J. Redick and Chris Paul. Redick is nursing an ankle injury and Paul has hurt two of his ribs. The Magic have been rolling as winners of its past five games, and will be just 2.5-point underdogs to the Clippers at Staples Center tonight. The Over/under is set at 196.

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The Magic have been a surprise team of the NBA this season, and have been doing it much different under first-year HC Scott Skiles. In the past three seasons, the Magic leaned heavily on center Nikola Vucevic, but this season it sports a much more balanced attack. Orlando also now seems to ooze with depth, something it all but lacked in the past three seasons of this rebuild. The Magic won just 68 games in the prior three seasons, but this year have appeared more than competent and are 4-5 on the road with a chance to even that mark tonight in L.A.

One of the biggest revelations for the Magic has been the play of swingman Evan Fournier. Fournier has stepped into a lead role with Orlando this year and leads the team in both scoring (16.7 per) and minutes per game (34). Vucevic has seen his numbers dip to 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds, and Harris too has leveled off at 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. But the Magic are digging deep into its bench to coax production from a seldom-used Andrew Nicholson as well as emerging second-year forward Aaron Gordon.

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2013 No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo has also switched to a sixth man role, which has only further vitalized the bench. He is averaging 14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 30 minutes per night, and frequently is still on the court during crunch time.

Orlando’s most dynamic athlete and top defender is having time to adjust to the ongoings of games before coming in to make his splash, and the Magic are a much tougher team in second quarters especially, which had been problematic for the team prior to this season.

Skiles also has everyone holding each other more accountable and the shift has been a much stronger help-side team defense, which is enabling the Magic to post some outstanding defensive numbers. Orlando ranks No. 8 in defensive rating while holding opponents to 99.3 points per game (No. 11). The offensive end has not bee sparkling, but with an offensive rating in the middle-of-the-pack at 103.9, the result has been precious ‘Ws’ for Orlando.

Comparatively, the Clippers defense has struggled, ranking No. 19 in the NBA in defensive rating while surrendering 101.8 points per game. The Clips offense has been good, however, averaging 102.7 points (No. 5) while posting an OFF rating of 105.7 (No. 7). Even with Chris Paul and Redick sidelined, the Clippers should be able to generate offense with point-forward Blake Griffin playing a facilitator’s role within the offense.

The Clippers are the more talented team, but that might not be what wins this game and NBA oddsmakers are placing the Magic within striking distance in the NBA odds. Orlando will look to double Griffin plenty. The Magic do not have an individual defender on par with Griffin, though Aaron Gordon will certainly get to test his luck as a very similar (but inferior) player.

This game could come down to the wire, and Orlando has been much better in closing out close games. The last two contests against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz showed a Magic team with the resolve and execution to be a playoff team after all. Magic fans just did not expect it this soon, with the team on pace to win over 40 games after managing just 25 last year.

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