Magic musings: Defense keys third straight victory

ORLANDO, Fla. — Fresh off a thumping of the Brooklyn Nets, the Orlando Magic continued to surprise some of the NBA’s more highly regarded teams by pulling out a 98-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Magic squandered a 57-42 halftime lead but rallied to win for the third game in a row, something which they hadn’t accomplished since last December. The Clippers had averaged 119 points through their first four games, including a 137-point outburst their last time out against the Houston Rockets.

After being held in check for most of the game, Arron Afflalo put the Magic ahead to stay on a turnaround jumper with 1:47 remaining. The shot gave the Magic a 90-89 lead.

Coach Jacque Vaughn said before the game that the Magic needed to do a good job of contesting the Clippers’ 3-point shots. That was evident in the first half as the Clippers missed all eight of their attempts from long range.

As was the case in defeating New Orleans and Brooklyn, the Magic held the Clippers under 40 percent shooting. Blake Griffin finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds while Chris Paul had 18 points and 10 assists, but their efforts ended up not being enough.

Center Nikola Vucevic stood out in the victory, the Magic got contributions from several players. Particularly noteworthy was what forward Andrew Nicholson and guard E’Twaun Moore provided off the bench in the fourth quarter.

The turning point

The Clippers wiped out a 19-point deficit by outscoring the Magic 29-5 over an eight-minute stretch of the third quarter. They made 13 of 17 shots during that span, including a pair of 3-pointers by J.J. Redick.

Vucevic recorded his third double-double of the season with 30 points and 21 rebounds. He made a jump shot and all six of his free throws in the final 1:04 to thwart any chances the Clippers had of pulling out a win.

Stat of the game

For as much attention as the Clippers have gotten regarding their depth, it was the Magic who had a 34-16 advantage in bench points.

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What’s next 

Friday night vs. Boston, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida).