Magic Rally Down the Stretch to Stun Clippers
Down 12-0 to start the game, 42-26 midway through the second quarter and 91-82 with 3 ½ minutes remaining in the fourth, a young, but determined and resilient Orlando Magic squad rallied late to stun the Los Angeles Clippers, 103-96, on Tuesday night in the second game of a five-game Western Conference road trip.
Wendell Carter Jr., playing in just his second game with the Magic following the blockbuster trade from the Bulls, gave Orlando its first lead of the night with a tip-in with 1:10 left off a missed putback attempt by James Ennis III. On the Magic’s ensuing possession, Otto Porter Jr., the other player Orlando acquired in that deal, scored a layup to extend Orlando’s lead to four. Then, to seal the victory, Michael Carter-Williams, who hit a pair of free throws 15 seconds earlier, poked the ball away from Kawhi Leonard and raced the other way for a breakaway dunk with 2.3 ticks left.
Back-to-back draft picks in 2018, Mo Bamba and Carter will now both have plenty of opportunity to showcase and sharpen their skills. That’s precisely what they did on Tuesday in Los Angeles, as the 7-foot Bamba tallied 12 points and eight rebounds and the 6-foot-10 Carter, whom Steve Clifford trusts on the floor in crunch time, had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
From the start of the season to now, no Magic player has improved more than Chuma Okeke, who on Tuesday recorded 18 points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals. He has now scored in double figures in four straight games and over that stretch has made 27 of his 43 shot attempts, including 12 of his 19 3-point tries. Even more impressive has been his defense, as his activity and instincts has given opponents fits.
In the first half, the Clippers shot 21-of-40 (52.5%) from the field and 6-of-15 from beyond the arc (40%). In the second half, they shot just 16-of-49 (32.6%) from the floor and 6-of-22 (27.3%) from downtown. As long as they stay engaged defensively as they have to start this West Coast road trip, the Magic are going to make steady progress down the home stretch of the season.
Back after missing the last seven games with a sore right knee, Terrence Ross gave the Magic a lift, especially in the second half when he scored 10 of his 15 points. After the trades of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, the Magic will rely on Ross’ offensive firepower more than ever. Clifford said before Tuesday’s game he hasn’t decided yet whether Ross will continue to come off the bench or be vaulted into the starting lineup at some point.
Quote of the Night
“Wendell is a smart player. He is also smart off the court, so he is going to pick up things very, very quick, quicker than most guys. The way he moves his feet on defense for his height…he’s so quick laterally. He’s also got a quick bounce. He can get up and block shots real quick. You think you have a layup and he will just come out of nowhere and just block it and get the rebound, so he helps us a lot on that end of the court.” – Okeke on Carter
The Magic, who snapped their 14-game losing skid to the Clippers, will now head to New Orleans for a clash with Zion Williamson and the Pelicans on Thursday at 8 p.m. New Orleans, which has won four of its last five, is currently just 1.5 games back of 10th place in the West, significant considering teams who finish between seventh and 10th in each conference this season will compete in a play-in tournament to determine the East and West’s last two playoff spots. In their most recent win over the Celtics, Williamson recorded 28 points, Brandon Ingram scored 25 and Josh Hart posted 15 points and 15 rebounds.