Magic vs. Clippers: Pregame Report

By John Denton
Jan. 11, 2017

LOS ANGELES – Back in the same arena and locker room where they experienced a great deal of frustration just three nights earlier, the Orlando Magic are hoping for a different result tonight at Staples Center.

The NBA schedule-makers seemed to have done the Magic a favor by giving them five consecutive days in Los Angeles, something that they hope helps them re-charge their batteries coming into a critical stretch.

The start to the longest road trip of the season – 12 nights and six games – got off to an awful start as the Magic fell 111-95 to the Lakers on Sunday night. Now, after an off day on Monday and a practice on Tuesday, the Magic will face the Clippers tonight at very same Staples Center.

Arena workers give Staples Center a complete makeover for Lakers and Clippers games, changing up the hardwood floor and hanging banners of the two teams all over the facility to give it a somewhat different look. The Clippers also go as far as covering up the Lakers’ 17 championship banners and 10 retired numbers, hanging pictures of superstar players such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan in the rafters of the massive arena.

Now, the Magic (16-23) are hoping that the different look of Staples Center will help them produce a different result tonight against the Clippers (26-14).

``We’re doing some things differently offensively to try and give us a spark in some of the things that we’re running and we’ve got to improve on the defensive end,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said of his team’s adjustments heading into tonight. ``We did a better job (defensively) against Houston (last Friday), which was our first sign of improvement and then it completely left us in the Lakers game. We didn’t play with enough energy and we didn’t have defensive proficiency in any area.’’

Vogel has contemplated a lineup change for several games, but he said he would ``probably not’’ alter the lineup tonight. His hand could be forced, however, if power forward Serge Ibaka can’t play because of a shoulder injury suffered on Sunday. Ibaka, who has played in all 39 games this season, ranks first in blocked shots (1.7), second on the team in scoring (15.6) and third in rebounding (7.1).

``It’s getting better and better, so let’s hope tonight I will feel better before the game,’’ said Ibaka, who didn’t practice the past two days.

If Ibaka can’t play, the Magic could start Nikola Vucevic as a converted power forward. Or they could counter L.A.’s smallish lineups with Blake Griffin by opening with Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon at the forward slots.

``We need to be more together on defense,’’ Gordon said. ``It’s an awareness thing and a chemistry thing. When we pick those two things up, our defense will inevitably follow.’’

The Clippers beat the Magic 113-108 back on Dec. 14 – a game where Gordon was a standout on both ends. He made the Clippers pay for trying to guard him with Jordan by pumping in 33 points and four 3-pointers. Defensively, the 6-foot-9 Gordon was used to guard Paul in an attempt to disrupt his rhythm. That night, Paul finished with 16 points and 10 assists, and Vogel considers him to be the key to L.A.’s offense.

``Obviously, he’s the best in the business at the point guard spot and they’ve got the lob game (to Jordan),’’ Vogel said. ``And with Blake (Griffin) out, they downsize big-time and play a lot of small lineups, muck the game up a little bit and they’ve become equally dangerous in a different way.’’

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