In a game that had everyone’s attention, the Los Angeles Clippers triumphed over the Orlando Magic with a final score of 118-102. However, what made this matchup particularly intriguing was not just the action on the court, but the imminent arrival of former MVP James Harden, who watched the game from a suite.
James Harden’s presence in the arena was a clear indication of the impending trade between the Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers, although the deal had not been officially finalized at the time of the game. Harden, along with newcomer P.J. Tucker, arrived at the arena just 75 minutes before tipoff. Harden received a warm welcome from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and later joined his future teammates in the locker room. The 10-time All-Star and 2018 NBA MVP even shared an emotional embrace with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, leaving no doubt about his excitement to join the Clippers.
When asked about his feelings regarding the trade, Harden expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “You don’t understand.” The impending acquisition of Harden has certainly generated a buzz in the NBA community, and his new Clippers jersey with the number “1” was ready and waiting in the locker room.
Despite the excitement surrounding the trade, neither Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, nor Clippers coach Tyronn Lue commented on the deal, as it had not yet been made official.
The Clippers had only 11 players in uniform due to the pending trade, and they made the most of their limited roster. Bones Hyland and Norman Powell both contributed 18 points, with nine players seeing at least 18 minutes of playing time.
The game’s first half was characterized by strong defense, with the Clippers trailing 50-47 at halftime. However, the third quarter was a different story, as the Clippers exploded for 41 points, while the Magic struggled, managing just 21 points. Russell Westbrook played a pivotal role in this surge, contributing 16 of his 18 points during the third quarter, along with three assists and three steals. Paul George, the game’s top scorer, added 14 of his 27 points in the same period.
The Magic’s offensive woes were evident throughout the game, with their struggles at the free-throw line becoming particularly glaring. They went 19-33 from the charity stripe in a game they lost by 16 points. Their field goal shooting was not much better, as they shot 45.9% from the field and a dismal 23.1% from beyond the arc.
Paolo Banchero, last year’s Rookie of the Year, continued to experience a cold start to the season, recording 15 points but struggling with 37.7% shooting from the field and limited three-point success. The Magic will likely need Banchero to regain his rookie form if they aim to make a run for the play-in tournament.
With this loss to the Clippers, the Magic concluded their four-game west coast road trip and faced a showdown with the 1-3 Utah Jazz. The outcome of that game would determine whether they finished the road trip above or below .500, underlining the importance of getting back on track.