Denton: Vucevic Remains Gametime Decision

By John Denton
Jan. 6, 2014

LOS ANGELES – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic took a major step in his recovery process from a sprained left ankle on Monday and hopes he can play tonight when the Orlando Magic face the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Magic are certainly on board with those hopes considering the effect that Vucevic has on the team when he’s on the floor. Orlando is 0-6 this season and 1-10 the past two years when Vucevic has missed time with sprained ankles or a mild concussion last year.

Vucevic, who has missed the past two games because of ankle troubles, went through Orlando’s morning practice without pain in his left ankle. He hobbled to the team bus with his ankle heavily wrapped in ice and will test the ankle again tonight before the game.

``I did go through shoot around and I did everything that the team did,’’ Vucevic said. ``It feels better and we’ll see tonight during pregame. It’s a game-time decision, but it feels pretty good right now.’’

The Magic (10-23) open their five-game, 10-day road trip in Los Angeles against a Clippers team (23-13) that won’t have superstar guard Chris Paul (separated shoulder) or former Magic guard J.J. Redick (hand injury). The trip will take the Magic to Portland (Wednesday), Sacramento (Friday), Denver (Saturday) and Dallas (Monday).

``You’re playing pretty elite teams and teams that are playing for playoff positioning in a tough Western Conference. So this trip will let us know a lot about ourselves, what we need to improve and what we’re good at,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``It’s a semi-litmus test on the road.’’

The Magic also hope to get Vucevic back because of the way he played against the Clippers on Nov. 6, a game that Orlando won 98-90 at the Amway Center. Vucevic dominated his matchup against DeAndre Jordan with 30 points and 21 rebounds – the fifth game of his career with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. The Magic 7-footer also played a major role in shutting down Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin in the second half as Orlando pulled away for the victory.

``I remember a lot of that game because it was one of my best games and we got a win,’’ Vucevic said. ``It was one of our best games this season. It was early in the season, but hopefully we can play that way again and get another win.’’

The Magic come into tonight’s game having lost three games in a row and nine straight against teams from the Western Conference. In fact, one of Orlando’s two wins this season against teams from the Western Conference was against the Clippers in November.

The Magic headed to Los Angeles twice last season in need of victories and they got them. Orlando was riding a three-game losing streak last December, but emerged with an emotional 113-103 defeat of Dwight Howard and the Lakers. Then, last January, the Magic were in the midst of another frustrating skid, but found success against the Clippers in the form of a 104-101 victory.