The LA Clippers couldn’t hold on to a fourth quarter lead as they fell to the Orlando Magic, 113-108.
It was the ultimate trap game. Saturday matinee at 12 PM, no Kawhi Leonard, and a Magic team that had lost two straight and seven of their last ten. Over the past couple of seasons the Clippers haven’t been a big fan of early weekend games. That continued as a slow start and tough fourth quarter stretch buried them.
Similar to Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers got off to a poor start. The Magic led 8-0, forcing Tyronn Lue to burn an early timeout. It didn’t work initially, and the Clippers found themselves down by 11 early.
The Clippers were able to recover though off a strong stretch from Russell Westbrook. Westbrook scored six points in the final three minutes of the first quarter to get the Clippers back into the game.
The Magic were able to keep control of the game though heading into halftime. While Ivica Zubac had a double-double of ten points and ten rebounds by the half and Westbrook had 11 points, three rebounds, and five assists, Paul George struggled in the first half finishing with only seven points on 3-10 shooting.
The Clipper offense was able to keep up with the Magic, they had 55 points at the half. But they allowed the Magic to score 57 and just never seemed to get into a defensive rhythm. After the game, associate head coach Dan Craig spoke about the Clippers defensive breakdowns.
“I thought they made some timely shots. We got caught rotating on some middle drives and responding to it,” Craig said. “The pace too, we had to get back and get matched up. And there was a couple in transition.”
Echoing Craig’s words, the second half was a tale of two quarters on the defensive end. The Clippers had a solid third quarter on that end. They held the Magic to 17 points and looked like they were going to take control of the game.
But then the fourth quarter rolled around and the defense came off the rails. While the Clippers were able to get buckets, they couldn’t stop the Magic from scoring. Orlando dropped 39 points in the fourth quarter including several timely baskets from Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz as the Clippers were trying to snatch a win.
While Paul George did his best on the offensive end late in the game, it wasn’t enough as the defense just didn’t sync up.
“We didn’t finish rotations. Wendell Carter, he shot it well and on some of them we just didn’t finish rotations and we didn’t take his shot making serious,” George said. “I thought that was part of the fourth quarter, giving up some threes that we could have avoided.”
While the loss is certainly a brutal one even without Leonard suiting up, the Clippers have the opportunity to wipe the bitter taste out of their mouth with a back-to-back against the Portland Trail Blazers with Leonard likely able to play.
“It’s another chance to play and play full strength,” George said. “It’s the nature of the league, games come quick.”
-Robert Covington got his first extended minutes a while and he produced. In 22 minutes off the bench he had 11 points and made plays all over the court on defense. Tyronn Lue even went with him late in the game in place of Zubac in a small ball lineup. With Leonard expected back against the Blazers, Covington will probably be squeezed back out of the lineup but that’s the nature of having a deep team.