Magic fall flat in loss to short-handed Clippers
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers know what it’s like to take the floor without key players.
A matchup with the equally hobbled Orlando Magic helped them rediscover what winning feels like.
Eric Bledsoe had a career-high 27 points, including 19 in the second half, and the Los Angeles Clippers used a big third quarter to secure an 86-76 win over the Magic on Wednesday night.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak for Los Angeles, which has three games remaining on its eight-game road trip.
“We were in a little slump,” Bledsoe said. “We were in the games, playing good, playing tough, but we just couldn’t finish the game. … So it was a huge win for us.”
The Clippers won despite playing without their three top scorers in All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and Jamal Crawford. Paul remains sidelined with a bruised right kneecap and Griffin sat with a strained hamstring. Crawford was out with a sore right shoulder.
“The Magic came into our house and beat us and we pretty much had everybody,” Clippers forward Grant Hill said. “I think the fact that we’ve lost some games, and lost some confidence, and maybe lost the formula of how to win — you forget sometimes.
“We know the Magic were undermanned. We didn’t play great, but we did what we had to do.”
Jameer Nelson scored 18 points to lead the Magic and Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Orlando snapped its previous 10-game skid against the Clippers on Jan. 12. The Magic head to Cleveland on Friday with their longest losing streak of the season.
Nelson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised forearm and scored 18 points in the first half. But he was held scoreless over the final 24 minutes (0 for 5 from the field) as the Magic struggled to find another source of offense.
“For the most part we know that he’s the only person on their team who can get them going,” Bledsoe said. “I just tried to make it hard for him to get the ball.”
The Magic, who also have also not been strangers themselves to taking the floor with several missing pieces, lost their 11th consecutive game and have now dropped 22 of their last 24.
Orlando played without starters Arron Afflalo (strained calf) and J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder), who missed their sixth and second straight games, respectively. Starting forward Glen Davis is out at least eight weeks after having surgery on his broken left foot.
Forced to play undersized, the Magic struggled mightily from the field for the second consecutive game and continued rack up turnovers. Despite giving up 13 points and 14 rebounds to DeAndre Jordan, Orlando held a 44-36 edge on points in the paint for the game.
But that was negated by the 18 points the Magic gave up via their 18 turnovers.
“I think the thing that really killed us tonight was when we got stops and they got those offensive rebounds and loose balls,” Nelson said. “That kind of deflates you a little bit. It’s just something that we always talk about, but tonight we just didn’t come up with enough of them.”
Los Angeles trailed at the break, but outscored the Magic 24-13 in the third quarter and took a nine-point lead into the fourth.
Orlando cut the lead to as few as seven before a 3-pointer by Lamar Odom pushed the Clippers’ advantage back to 81-71 with just over two minutes left in the game to help secure the win.
“When you’re working with different combinations, asking guys to do more than we’ve asked them in the past, it’s a tough adjustment to do that on a game-to-game basis,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “So we’re going to have to deal with it and learn from it, and get better.”
The Magic led 42-40 at the half, but nothing came seamlessly on the offensive end for either team.
The play was sloppy in several stretches, with the Clippers and Magic combining for 19 first-half turnovers.
Orlando shot just 36 percent (16 for 44) from the field, with Los Angeles just slightly better at 42 percent (16 for 38).
The only hot hand belonged to Nelson, who was able to break into the lane for several layups.
Meanwhile, the Clippers seemed lost at times defensively, giving up 22 points in the paint.
“We’ve got to put ourselves in position. We feel like we’ve given a couple of games away,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Hopefully we learned something a little bit tonight, but every game is different.”
NOTES: Matt Barnes received his 10th technical of the season with 8:37 left in the second quarter. … The Clippers improved to 6-6 without Paul this season. … This was the second consecutive game that the Magic shot under 35 percent.