Clippers power past depleted Magic, 122-95
Steve Clifford is all too familiar with Kawhi Leonard. The Magic head coach had to game plan for the eventual Finals MVP in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, a series that Leonard and the Raptors eventually won in five games, and Clifford would be the first to tell you that his team couldn't exactly take many positive lessons from that experience.
"I watched the films; obviously they didn't go that well so we have to try different stuff," Clifford said pregame. "The other night, he was unbelievable. There's so much to his game. Pick-and-roll game, his post-up iso game, he's unselfish, obviously, and you know, he gets to things both out of play calls but then also just playing ball. So you've got to be super-organized from a team standpoint to have a chance to slow him down at all."
As it turned out, the Magic really had no hope of slowing down Leonard. Not even a little bit, not even at all.
Leonard cooled down a bit from his world-beating performance against the Cavaliers, but he still had his fourth consecutive 30-point game, finishing with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting as the Clippers routed the Magic, 122-95.
This is the first time a Clipper has scored 30 points in four straight games since Elton Brand in the 2005-06 season.
Against the fifth-ranked defense in the NBA, and the best over the last two weeks (per Cleaning the Glass), the Clippers as a whole were pristine in their offensive execution. The ball moved rapidly to start the game, and the Clippers were running actions off the ball despite having the ultimate isolation cheat code in Leonard.
Leonard was aggressive attacking bigs on switches, and was particularly ruthless when matched up against Khem Birch.
An extra benefit in the first quarter was Patrick Beverley's aggression. Beverley was undeterred by the Magic defense, getting into the paint without any trouble. He made the right reads when he got to the basket, creating offense for himself and his teammates. Beverley had eight points and six assists in the first quarter alone as the Clippers raced out to a 34-26 lead.
The Magic's energy certainly felt like they were on the second night of a back-to-back. A lot of their jumpers came up short, and after living in transition last night against the Lakers, they had no fast break points in the first half against the Clippers.
Orlando was also without D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams (thus no backup point guard) along with Jonathan Isaac. Their absences combined with Markelle Fultz's struggles from the field made it difficult for the Magic to find enough scoring.
Landry Shamet continued his shooting resurgence with another high-volume effort from beyond the arc. He hit 3-of-8 threes, and it appeared that Doc Rivers and the coaching staff made a concerted effort to get him involved early. His night would have been made had he connected on a dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, but it was not meant to be for the 6-foot-4 shooting guard.
The pregame prediction that Rivers would start Patrick Patterson to combat the Magic's size did not come to fruition as Moe Harkless earned the start. However, Harkless was scoreless on four shot attempts in the first half, though he did collect six rebounds.
Harkless and was bumped for Patterson to start the second and didn't appear in the final 24 minutes. He also wasn't on the bench in the second half, so the switch may have been made with an injury in mind, not because Patterson is a more credible offensive threat.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell contributed their usual double-digit outputs in the win, as the Clippers weathered another game without Paul George. They now head on the road for a six-game road trip starting in New Orleans.