The Clippers’ final road trip before the All-Star break got off to a productive start Friday. They beat the Orlando Magic, 107-93, at Amway Center after getting some big contributions from an unexpected source. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. “Born Ready” lived up to his nickname
Lance Stephenson stepped up from quietly efficient in recent games to an all-out breakthrough against the Magic. He made all six of his shots, including a buzzer-beating 16-footer in the third quarter, and was a dynamic playmaker who threw a lob to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk and found J.J. Redick open in the corner for a three-pointer. Stephenson’s final tally was 13 points, three assists, one rebound and one steal. “Stephenson had a profound impact on the game,” Magic Coach Scott Skiles said. “He’s a talented guy, but he just drove in and kind of shoved us off and laid the ball in the basket. He made it look easy.”
2. The starters carried their weight for a change
There were pluses across the board after the starters had been in the minus department across the board over the previous four games. Chris Paul scored 21 points, Redick added 20 and Paul Pierce and DeAndre Jordan added 12 each. “I think we made up for some of the past games,” Paul said, “but we’ve got to keep it going.”
3. The Clippers nearly ran out of backup point guards
Austin Rivers was out from the start because of a bruised left hand and was joined in the locker room by Pablo Prigioni late in the third quarter after Prigioni sustained a blow to the head that left him with a bruised face. Rivers suffered his injury Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and tested the hand during warmups Friday but was unable to play. “It happened during that play I got thrown out,” Rivers said, referring to two quick technical fouls he received against the Timberwolves that led to his ejection. “I went to the lane, and something, either an elbow or something, hit me just dead in the middle of my hand.” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he was hopeful his son and Prigioni could return against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
4. Jamal Crawford continued his recent strong play off the bench
He scored 20 points on eight-of-14 shooting, the latest strong showing for the super sub that has given the Clippers a bigger lift recently. It was Crawford’s third consecutive game with at least 20 points and the fourth time in five games he has reached that threshold. Crawford said he was spurred by a conversation with Doc Rivers in which the coach told him to be more aggressive. “For me, that takes no thinking,” Crawford said. “I just go.”
5. Now comes one of the toughest games on the Clippers’ trip
The Clippers pulled something of a shocker when they beat Miami at home last month without Blake Griffin and Jordan. They’ve got Jordan back now but the Heat has been one of the best teams in the East over the last two weeks, winning six of its last seven games. The Clippers will then go on to play Philadelphia, which has played much better than its 7-43 record in recent weeks, before closing their trip against surging Boston, which has won eight of its last nine, including a 104-103 victory over East-leading Cleveland.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter: @latbbolch