Tobias Harris, Clippers overcome slow start to beat Magic
LOS ANGELES — Typically the lead runner on the Los Angeles Clippers’ four-quarter relay squad, Tobias Harris forced his team into a change of plans — and the adjustment worked out just fine Sunday.
Harris, one of the NBA’s top first-quarter scorers, started slow but still ended up with 28 points and the Clippers overcame a sluggish opening to beat the Orlando Magic 106-96 on Sunday.
Harris, who entered with the fifth most first-quarter points at 286, was 0 for 6 from the field in the opening 12 minutes with zero points.
“In all seriousness, I settle in and just take the pressure off myself with the missed shots and just focus on the team,” Harris said.
The Clippers trailed by 10 after one quarter, when they shot 7 of 26, and by 15 in the second quarter before wearing down the Magic from there. Los Angeles outscored the Magic by eight points in the second quarter and by 12 points in the second half.
Lou Williams added 17 points, and Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each had 13. The Clippers have won 11 consecutive games against the Magic, a streak that goes back to the 2013-14 season.
Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 24 rebounds for Orlando. Aaron Gordon added 17 points, and D.J. Augistine and Evan Fournier each had 12. The Magic have lost two straight and seven of 10, and are 1-3 on a six-game trip.
“I’ll be honest, without watching the film, and I’m not really like this, but we missed a bunch of wide-open shots,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “I think there were drives in the lane that we have to make to beat a team as good as they are while on the road. Our spot-up 3s, they don’t go in the basket and it made us hesitant.”
Vucevic had 11 rebounds in the first quarter to help the Magic take a 28-18 lead, but they blew a double-digit first-half lead for the second consecutive game after falling at Minnesota on Friday night.
“We just couldn’t make shots,” Vucevic said. “I feel like we had a good amount of good looks we just didn’t make. I thought our defense was pretty good, for the most part, we just couldn’t make enough shots. We really struggled tonight.”
Orlando led 47-45 at halftime, and the Clippers took their first lead just under two minutes into the second half on Marcin Gortat’s turnaround basket. The Clippers struggled from the field in the opening quarter, shooting just 7 of 26. Orlando led by as many as 15 points before the Clippers rallied with a half-ending 21-12 run.
The Magic, though, made one last push. Orlando pulled even at 72 with just over 10 minutes remaining on Terrance Ross’ three free throws, and the Clippers countered with a 17-2 run to take an 89-74 lead with 6:37 remaining.
The start of the Clippers’ decisive run included a five-point trip, when Montrezl Harrel was fouled on a dunk, missed the free throw, and Williams made a 3-pointer.
“I thought defensively we were playing well (early), but offensively we weren’t making shots,” Williams said. “But when you (are a player that scores) you can’t allow that to bother you and I think that showed. I think that tonight we had high attempts and probably had low field-goal percentages but we just continued to play and continued to show up.”
After shooting 38.3-percent from the field in the first half, the Clippers went 47.8 percent in the second half to finish at 43 percent, well under their 45.7-percent mark for the season.
The Magic was undone by their 34.1-percent shooting in the second half, including a 5-of-16 mark after halftime from 3-point range.
“I took two guys out because they were hesitant to shoot because they missed the open ones,” Clifford said. “You got to keep shooting. But I thought our effort was good enough.”
GORTAT’S NATIONAL PRIDE
Gortat scored eight points with 10 rebounds as the native of Poland received plenty of playing time while the Clippers celebrated Polish Heritage Day. He played a season-high 25 minutes.
“I felt like a lot of guys were trying to help me today and I truly appreciate getting a few more minutes,” said Gortat, who addressed a large contingent of Polish fans estimated at 1,500 following the game. “I’m glad I was able to help the team and the most important thing was (the) win. I don’t care about my stat-line at the end.”
Magic: Vucevic had his team-leading 26th double-double. He led the Magic in rebounds for the 30th time this season. … After the Clippers went 13 of 26 from 3-point range in a victory at Orlando in November, Orlando held Los Angeles to 9 of 31 from distance Sunday.
Clippers: The last time the Clippers lost to the Magic was a 98-90 decision at Orlando on Nov. 6, 2013. … The Clippers’ rough first quarter against the Magic came after playing one of their best first quarters Friday when they outscored the Suns 38-19 in an eventual victory. … Guard Milos Teodosic was inactive for the second consecutive game because of a knee injury.
Magic: At Sacramento on Monday night.
Clippers: Host Charlotte on Tuesday night.
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