The Clippers touched down in central Florida after 3 a.m. Friday, and the team that stepped off the runway was tired of losing, and just plain tired.
“Two-hour flight, you cannot go to sleep immediately, you shower, try to go to sleep, turn off lights, it don’t work, look at phone one more time,” center Boban Marjanovic said. “It’s hard to go to bed at that time.”
Even coach Doc Rivers, who loves returning to the city where he coached and his family has lived for years, admitted concern about the circumstances surrounding his return. Since the Clippers’ road trip began Monday, the only thing it had produced were two losses and Jekyll and Hyde basketball. And now it was time for the first back-to-back against a Magic team that had rested for two days.
His worries were unfounded. The Clippers (5-4) looked no worse for wear in a 120-95 victory that marked their 10th consecutive against the Magic. Lou Williams scored a game-high 28 off the bench and made all five of his three-point attempts.
“We played a great half of defense last night in Philly in the second half,” Rivers said. “We played a great night in Oklahoma in the first half. We just haven’t put two halves together. Tonight, both halves, great.”
Center Boban Marjanovic, a fan favorite fresh off a game-altering performance against the 76ers on Thursday, had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in his first start since joining the team in January. It was the second time in his career that he produced a double-double in consecutive games and came as part of the team’s first new lineup. Marjanovic replaced center Marcin Gortat, who did not play despite being available.
“[Marjanovic] did a great job,” Tobias Harris said. “Anytime he got a hand up for a target that’s something I’m looking for. He has huge hands so he’s going to grip the ball really fast, too. It’s tough for defenses to guard.”
Backup center Montrezl Harrell, who played 25 minutes and scored 10 points, was one of five Clippers to score in double figures against a Magic team that trailed by as many as 27 points.
“You don’t play but two [centers] most the time so I just thought the size mattered tonight and that’s why we went with it,” said Rivers, adding that the Serbian center might continue to start “maybe for a couple games.”
“I’m not marrying myself to any rotation,” he said. “We’re going to keep changing it.”
The Magic (2-6) missed all seven of their three-point attempts in the first half and made just four after halftime. The Clippers made 13 of their 26 from deep and held a 25-11 advantage in made free throws.
Harris made himself right at home against the franchise that traded him in 2016 to Detroit. He voted in the morning before scoring 21 points on eight-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. It was his ninth consecutive game scoring 15 or more points, the longest streak to begin a season in his eight-year career. Afterward, Harris reconnected on the court with around two dozen students he began mentoring while playing for Orlando.
“I love traded players when they come back,” Rivers said. “Either they play awful or they play great and Tobias was great tonight.”
A three-pointer by Williams extended the Clippers’ lead to 19 four minutes into the fourth quarter and he ran upcourt pretending to scoop money off the court. The mood stayed light to end a trip that began badly.
“We can be back home from the road trip with win that was much important,” Marjanovic said. “You have a smile on the plane.”