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TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 10 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles will open their arms to all teams residing toward the bottom rung of the standings, especially while the Clippers are in a fight to remain playoff eligible and staring at a rugged schedule in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Orlando Magic are nowhere near the level of playoff-caliber teams the Clippers will face between now and the end of March, so L.A.’s priority is to take advantage when it can.
What could be a real challenge when the Clippers welcome the Magic on Saturday night is the level of play, as both teams will be playing on consecutive nights. While the Clippers clashed against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, the Magic played at Sacramento and arrived in Southern California late Friday.
The Clippers controlled the Cavaliers in a 116-102 victory. The Magic struggled on offense and fell 94-88 against the Kings.
Orlando (20-46) has now lost 10 of its last 12 games as it limps into the final four weeks of the season. But in returning to Staples Center, where the Magic last played Wednesday against the Lakers, there remains a bad taste in their collective mouths.
The Magic lost in controversial fashion to the Lakers on Wednesday, falling 108-107 when the clock started too early on a final-second inbound play. The NBA later revealed in a report that the Magic should have been allowed to re-do the play, instead of being subject to a jump ball at center court.
It has simply been that kind of year for the Magic, as the franchise appears to be on the verge of not reaching 30 victories for the fifth time in the past six seasons. To their credit, this team is not going to dwell on Wednesday’s hard-luck defeat, even if they are returning to the scene of the crime in Los Angeles.
“You’ve just got to move on to the next game,” Magic forward Aaron Gordon told the Orlando Sentinel. “But there was plenty of times that we could have won that game. Personally, I could have shot better from the (free-throw) stripe. Defensively, we could have done better. You’ve got to give yourself enough cushion to where things like that don’t affect the game down the stretch.”
If the Clippers are looking back at what could have been, it would be toward a season that has been beset with injuries. Before the season had even reached the midway point, every opening night starter had missed significant time.
The rocky season eventually gave way to the Clippers trading Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons at the end of January. But Los Angeles has still remained in the playoff hunt, and while they might not be considered a legitimate title contender, their ability to give the Cavaliers a bad time Friday shows the level of play they can reach.
The Magic could have a chance Saturday to catch the Clippers scoreboard watching, or looking ahead to a March schedule that includes the Rockets, Thunder, Trail Blazers Timberwolves, Bucks, Pacers and Raptors.
“Every game counts,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You’re going to play really good teams that the other team is hoping that you don’t win that game. And if you win that game, it hurts them emotionally. I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s good to be in this position.”
Proving that their injury issues aren’t behind them, the Clippers are expected to be without forward Danilo Gallinari (hand) and guard Avery Bradley (groin). Guard Jawun Evans (abdomen) remains day-to-day after being out since Jan. 22.
The Magic’s D.J. Augustin (ankle) is day-to-day, while Gordon’s return to action is unknown. Gordon reportedly was suffering from migraine headaches after Wednesday’s game, but he has been put in the NBA’s concussion protocol as a precaution. Out indefinitely for Orlando is guard/forward Evan Fournier (knee) and guard/forward Terrence Ross (knee).