Coming off of four straight wins, all in 2017, the L.A. Clippers had a very beatable opponent coming into Staples Center in the Orlando Magic. The game was a tightly contested one for most of the night with both teams’ biggest leads growing to just seven points until the final score, but rebounding became the decisive factor in this one.
Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, who scored a career-high 33 points against the Clippers last time the two faced off in mid-December, got off to a stellar start, scoring 16 points in the first quarter on 6-6 shooting (including a pair of three-pointers). He looked like he was well on his way to yet another career game at the expense of the Clippers, but he was held to just 12 points in the next three quarters and finished with 28 points.
The Clippers once again ran their offense through J.J. Redick to success as he finished with a team-high 22 points. Redick’s two biggest shots of the night, a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper near the sideline, both came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Despite having 21 turnovers, the Clippers were able to win their fifth straight game thanks in large part to the team’s effort on the glass. L.A. outrebounded Orlando 49-35 on the night, with 20 big rebounds coming from their defensive anchor DeAndre Jordan.
Just two days ago, the Clippers announced the hiring of recently-retired and future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett as a consultant for the team. In his first official practice working out with the Clippers’ big men, Garnett was seen working out with center Jordan. While speaking to the media after the workout, Jordan explained what it was like to work out with Garnett.
“Amazing, amazing, amazing,” said Jordan. “Besides him cussing me out. We played against each other, and he’s a great spirit and a great basketball mind. I just want to be a student whenever he’s here.”
Jordan, who finished with 10 points, two steals, and three blocks, also hauled in 20 rebounds on Wednesday night, increasing his career number of games with at least 20 rebounds to a total of 36 games. Ironically, that tied him up with the Garnett himself. After the game, Jordan acknowledged how honored he his to have his name among big-names like Shaquille O’Neal (who he was previously tied with) and Garnett.
“Its humbling for sure. its an honor to be in the same category as those guys. That’s a great accomplishment.”
It wasn’t just Jordan who had an impressive rebounding night as Chris Paul added seven rebounds, Redick grabbed six boards, and Austin Rivers had four rebounds of his own.
“DeAndre Jordan is a beast,” said head coach Vogel. “Obviously, he gets a lot of those [rebounds] because of the shooters they have on the floor you have to scramble out to, and Chris Paul. You have to bring a lot of attention to him, and it leaves DeAndre open on the glass.”
After losing six consecutive games, what’s Jordan seeing his team do differently that’s led the way to five straight victories?
“I think that we’re doing a pretty good job on both ends lately. Just trying to keep the ball alive and get us extra possessions on the offensive end. Defensively, I think the guards are doing a way better job at coming back and rebounding those that land around the free throw line. We know that if we get the rebound, then we can play in transition like we want to play.”
Despite the victory, a worrisome category in the boxscore continues to show up for the Clippers here and there, this time with 21 of them racked up the team: turnovers. L.A.’s 21 giveaways allowed the Magic to take a whopping 16 more shot attempts than them. Luckily, Orlando repeatedly missed opportunities to convert Clipper turnovers into points. The lead that felt like it should’ve been close to 10 or 13 points for the Magic never got higher than seven points.
Up next for the Clippers is a pair of days off with a practice likely coming on Friday before taking on the young, but hungry Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday afternoon.