Heading into a new week with more focus on NBA basketball than ever, we turn to one of the most exciting match-ups of the day, as Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic (15-9, 8-4 home) host Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers (14-7, 4-4 road). With the Los Angeles Clippers finding themselves in unfamiliar territory on top of the Pacific division and a game and a half up on the Los Angeles Lakers, tonight they’ll seek to move into another unfamiliar territory; beating the Orlando Magic.
The Magic come into tonight’s contest fresh off a 3-game winning streak to repair most of the damage done by their 4-game skid just prior. Against the Clippers however, the Magic haven’t known defeat in a long time, winning the last 9 match-ups against Los Angeles by an average of 14.6 points, including the last 4 straight at Amway Center by 23.3 points. Los Angeles hasn’t done itself any favor in these match-ups, losing both games last year while scoring just 85 points per contest, and shooting a horrendous 31.5 percent from the floor (their worst marks against any team in the NBA in 2010-11). Things however, have changed dramatically for the newly-titled ‘Lob City’, which has seen the introduction of elite point guard Chris Paul (17.9 points, 8.9 assists, %51.1 shooting), and veteran Chauncey Billups (14.8 points, 4.1 assists) have an immediate impact from day 1 and put the Clippers on pace to be a perennial playoff contender. With 5 Clippers players scoring in double figures and the team 5th in the league in shooting percentage at %46.4, superstar Blake Griffin (21.4 points, 10.9 rebounds) finally has the support he has so badly needed to turn this franchise around. In tonight’s game, with the Clippers the favored team coming in, it could finally be time for a changing of the guard in the win column for this match-up.
For the Clippers to have success in tonight’s match-up, they will have to focus first and foremost on playing better defense against a Magic team that averaged 97.5 points against them last season. While the Clippers have managed an impressive 98.1 points on the road this season, their 4-4 record shows that in those games, defense has been lacking as they’ve allowed 106 points per game in their 4 road defeats. With the Magic scoring just 94.7 points per contest at home, that could bode well for the Clippers if they hold Orlando right at that average as Los Angeles is 11-0 this season when opposing teams score 95 points or less. That means focusing on shutting down Dwight Howard (20.4 points, 15.1 rebounds/game), who puts down the bulk of the scoring for Orlando. One thing that may work well for the Clippers tonight is forcing Howard to the line instead of letting him take shots in the paint. Howard is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the league at 49 percent, and as a team the magic rank 3rd to last in the NBA at %65.5 from the stripe. While the Clippers are the absolute worst team in free-throw shooting (%64.8 as a team, led by Blake Griffin’s equally awful %49 mark), Orlando’s inside presence is much more dependent on Howard than Los Angeles is on Griffin inside the paint, so fouling Howard enough to keep him from making open shots is key for the Clippers this evening.
Orlando will have to put in a good defensive effort of their own at home tonight, especially with the solid recent form of the Clippers putting them on 5 wins in the last 6 games as Los Angeles heads into the 2nd game of their 6-game stretch away from home. That may be hampered a bit by the fitness of Hedo Turkoglu, who tweaked is left knee on Saturday against Indiana. With the Clippers’ Caron Butler (14.8 points), getting a bit of a rest on Saturday and coming in on a solid 3-pt shooting night (3-6 vs. Washington), it’ll be interesting to see how these two players match-up against one another, and whether Butler can take advantage of a possibly still-sore Turkoglu. While Orlando should stack up well in the paint against L.A. with Ryan Anderson playing at the best of his career thus far (16.3 points, 7.2 rebounds), and Glen Davis back in the lineup after serving a 2-game team suspension, care must be taken to avoid getting burned around the perimeter as Mo Williams (%44.8 from 3-pt range), Chris Paul (%45.8), Chauncey Billups (%37.4) and Randy Foye (%38.1) have all shown they are capable of dropping threes in when given open looks. Thus, Orlando needs to have stand-up guard play from J.J. Reddick, Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson, to keep Los Angeles from putting up a big final number on the scoreboard.
Betting Lines for Orlando Magic vs. Los Angeles Clippers at TopBet Sportsbook
With both teams coming in on solid recent form, it’s somewhat surprising that the bookmakers are, across the board, taking bets on the Los Angeles Clippers being the favorite in this match-up, despite their lack of success against Orlando in recent years. But, that would discount the fact that Los Angeles has perhaps never had a better team than they do this season, and that team should be very focused on overcoming their demons against the Magic this evening. Against the spread at TopBet, the Clippers are a tight -1 point favorite (-110 odds), with Orlando getting just +1 point to work with. With such close odds there, the money line is off at TopBet, but what could be a good wager tonight is on the total points, set at 190 points. Los Angeles has been scoring north of 98 points on the road, and allowing 106 points in losses could mean that if the Clippers fail to win, the over bet on total points could be the pick to make. However, with the Magic scoring a league-low in losses (77 points/game over 9 defeats), if the Clippers are your team to win, taking the under wager might very well be the best bet to make on the over under.
Our Pick to Win:
I admittedly like the Clippers this season, as they’ve instantly become one of the most exciting teams in the league, and it’s good to note that despite losing their first four games against teams with winning records on the road, they’ve now won two straight in those situations, beating the high-scoring Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz both in the last week and a half. However, in this match-up tonight against a tough Magic team, the Clippers simply must hold the Orlando offense in check, and continue to dominate on the fast-break to quickly score points. Good defensive teams win in Orlando, those that give up more than 92 points at Amway do not (the Magic are 8-0 when scoring more than 92 at home, 0-4 when scoring less than 92). That said, tonight the stats should get a little mixed up. I think defense will go out the window a little bit, and both teams will be putting up north of 95 points in a fun contest for the fans, but not for coaches touting defense. In that battle, I’ll take the high-flying Clippers to overcome on the road, as their outside shooting and penetration inside from the explosive Blake Griffin work to score the Clippers their first win in 10 games against the Magic. Los Angeles 103, Orlando 96.