Clippers lose to Orlando, their seventh straight defeat
. -- Starting for the first time since All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson was injured, Anthony Johnson wanted to set a high standard. He may have set it too high.
Johnson had a season-best 25 points in place of Nelson, and the Orlando Magic routed the Clippers, 125-96, on Wednesday night. Johnson was quick to point out he won’t score big every game, especially against tougher competition.
“Definitely not every night,” Johnson said, laughing. “I’m not looking to produce like that night in and night out. If I did, I would be a starter in this league.”
Johnson was cool and crisp in the Magic’s first game since Nelson tore the labrum in his right shoulder, doubling his regular-season career high with six three-pointers. He was six for eight from beyond the arc and the Magic made 16 three-pointers.
“We just ran into a team that was hungry,” Clippers guard Baron Davis said. “They are just a great team. They do what they are supposed to. They play the same way” without Nelson.
Al Thornton had 27 points, and Eric Gordon scored 14 for the Clippers, losers of seven straight and 21 of their last 23 games. They could do little to stop Johnson, who nearly matched his regular-season career high of 27 points.
The Magic (37-11) swapped its starting lineup to cope with Nelson’s loss, starting Johnson in place of Nelson and having shooting guard Courtney Lee come off the bench as his backup. Mickael Pietrus started in place of Lee.
The Clippers provided an easy test run.
“The Clippers were allowing us wide-open jumpers,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of stepping into them. . . . It made it very easy for myself to step into wide-open shots and knock them down.”
Clanking shots and scurrying on defense, the Clippers were outmatched and outplayed. The Clippers (10-39), tied with Washington for the NBA’s worst record, clogged the inside trying to shut down Dwight Howard and take advantage of the Magic’s point guard shortage.
The Magic, which has been active in trade talks and scouring the free-agent market to fill the void left by Nelson, will have tougher tests ahead than the Clippers. And Johnson’s stellar play might not make decisions for Orlando -- or Nelson -- any easier.
Nelson was injured in Orlando’s 105-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
He reiterated Wednesday that he will decide over the next few weeks whether he will have season-ending surgery or hold off and attempt rehabilitation.