LA Clippers narrowly escape Magic

Kawhi Leonard carried the day for the LA Clippers against the Magic
Kawhi Leonard carried the day for the LA Clippers against the Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages

At this point in the 2023-24 NBA season, a win is a win. Teams are jockying for playoff seeding. If you're the LA Clippers, you're satisfied with any victory.

So, Clippers fans can celebrate their 100-97 victory over the Orlando Magic in last night's contest. With that said, there isn't much room for a moral victory here. The Clippers barely escaped a team that they're supposed to have beat handily.

What happened?

LA Clippers struggle with Magic's defense

That's not to say that the Magic are pushovers. This is a team on the rise. Their 110.8 Defensive Rating ranks second in the entire NBA.

Last night, the Clippers felt their defensive pressure. Orlando held the Clippers to 8/24 shooting (33.3%) from long range. That's a mediocre percentage, but more significantly, the Magic's aggressive perimeter defense kept the Clippers' volume down.

The Magic also did a decent job of keeping the Clippers' stars in tact. Paul George finished with with 12 points on 4/14 shooting. James Harden had 11 on 3/12 shooting. For the first half, the Magic kept Kawhi Leonard in check as well.

In the second half, everything changed.

LA Clippers star carries the day

Leonard had 29 points on 12/21 shooting. A whopping 25 of those points came in the second half. The Clippers needed a star to carry them, and Leonard answered the call.

Give George credit as well. He hit a timely jump shot down the stretch of this game. George struggled in this contest, but he thrived in the clutch.

Is that the story of this game?

LA Clippers barely lose three-point battle

On an ordinary night, shooting 8/24 from long-range is a recipe for a loss. More broadly, it's hard to win an NBA game by scoring just 100 points.

Luckily for the Clippers, the Magic generally struggle from long range. Last night, they shot 10/29 (34.5%) from distance. The Magic beat the Clippers from long-range, but it wasn't a decisive enough victory to compensate for their inferior overall efficiency.

That's been a trend for the Magic. As strong as they are on defense, their 112.8 Offensive Rating lands 23rd in the NBA. This was a game where both teams struggled, and one simply struggled more than the other.

LA Clippers still need improvement

The Clippers won this game. They retained the fourth seed in the Western Conference. That's good - but the Clippers still need to be better.

To reiterate - most nights, the Clippers will lose if they score 100 points. The team only finished with 19 assists in this game. The Clippers need to tighten up their offensive attack if they're going to make a deep playoff run.

For the time being, they'll take the win.