The Orlando Magic (2-6) hit the floor at the Amway Center last night to battle the Los Angeles Clippers and lost 120-95.
Magic head coach Steve Clifford noticed 90 second into the game that they had a problem. He noticed his team’s collective body language and he didn’t like what he saw. He had a bad feeling about the direction the night was headed.
“The effort level, body language, purpose of play, one-on-one things, playing with discipline … the first quarter we were good and after that it was like we’d never practiced,’’ Clifford said dejectedly. “Difficult, difficult night and like I just told the guys – and we haven’t been like that – but this was not even close to being acceptable. Not for a professional basketball team and not if you’re prideful.
“For one of the first times since we (started), we just had the wrong, wrong attitude,’’ the coach continued. “We have a team that I still believe is good enough to be one of the (positive) stories of this league, but we have to have great attitude, great fight and great readiness and we had none of that (on Friday).’’
The Magic connected on 44.4 percent of their shots despite making only four of 17 3-pointers. The four made 3-pointers were a new low for the season. The 17 attempts were also dramatically fewer than the 43 attempted in each of the previous two games – a number that tied for the all-time franchise record.
The Clippers, who lost 122-113 a night earlier in Philadelphia, came into Friday with a rest disadvantage, but that didn’t bother them. They also came in having dominated the series against the Magic in recent years. L.A. now has a 10-game win streak over the Magic with five of them being in Orlando.
The loss was the teams fourth consecutive since an impressive win over the vaunted Boston Celtics. But the worry these days is that Magic veterans might take the current losing trend and take a “Here we go again” attitude after so many years of struggling as an unsuccessful franchise.
“I think we have guys who badly want to win,’’ Clifford said. “There have been tough times here, but one of the things that has to change so that we can have success is the every-night readiness. Maybe that’s something that’s going to be harder than I thought.’’
To make matters worse, sophomore forward Jonathan Isaac left the game due to yet another ankle injury.
“It is the same (kind of injury) so you can say it’s a little annoying,’’ said Isaac, who had two points and a rebound in 12 minutes before rolling his ankle. “(There’s) not really any swelling, so that’s a good sign. I’ll just take it day by day, come in (on Saturday) and see how I feel.’’
Forward Aaron Gordon was a no-show for the game, with just five shot attempts in 22 minutes and finished with four points, three rebounds and a steal.
The usual suspects carried the Magic when it came to scoring. Center Nikola Vucevic gave the Orlando got 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Evan Fournier scored 19 points on seven-of-12 shooting and Rookie Mo Bamba added seven points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes.
Clippers guard Lou Williams (28 points) and forward Tobias Harris (21 points). Williams has long been a Magic-killer, while Harris got more revenge against a Magic franchise he played for from 2013-15.
Williams, who had 16 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, delivered a knockout blow for the Magic with 7:50 to play when he buried a step-back 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of rookie center Mo Bamba.
The Magic will practice on Saturday in Orlando prior to heading to San Antonio where they will face the Spurs on Sunday. Tipoff for that game is 7 p.m. ET.
Sunday’s game is the start of a rather difficult back-to-back set of games and it continues a taxing stretch for Orlando. After playing in San Antonio on Sunday, the Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Monday night to host the Cleveland Cavaliers. It will be Orlando’s second back-to-back of the season.