The Orlando Magic realize they must start playing better against losing teams as they head toward the All-Star break.
The Magic will have one more chance to do that in their final game before the break, shooting for a third straight home win when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers.
Orlando posted a lackluster 97-94 win over league-worst New Orleans on Sunday. The Magic have struggled with lesser foes in recent weeks with losses to Atlanta and Golden State.
“Even the worst teams, they have a leading scorer,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. “But what you want to do is make the game difficult for them, and we haven’t done that lately.”
Playing its fourth straight game against a sub-.500 team, Orlando never pulled away from New Orleans and survived a last-second 3-point attempt. Steve Francis had 22 points and 10 assists for the Magic.
“It would be good to get a blowout victory, of course,” Francis said. “But we’ll take a win any way we can get it.”
Orlando is 9-10 since acquiring defensive stopper Doug Christie from Sacramento for Cuttino Mobley on Jan. 10. The Magic have had trouble defensively this month, allowing more than 104 points per game and yielding Allen Iverson’s 60-point outburst last Saturday.
“I think it would be unfair to pin that on Doug,” said Davis about the defensive woes. “I think you have to allow him to make the transition, you have to allow him to get a feel for how other guys are playing with him and I’m talking about the defensive end. I think it will get better.”
Christie is averaging 6.6 points and shooting 37.4 percent from the field with the Magic.
Los Angeles dropped its fifth straight on an eight-game road trip with a 109-106 loss at Toronto on Sunday. The Clippers rallied from a 20-point deficit in the first half to lead by as many as nine points before allowing the Raptors to take command in the fourth quarter.
“I’m very disappointed that we came out and had a very lethargic start,” Clippers forward Elton Brand said. “You can’t get behind 20 points in this league, but we fought back.”
The Clippers are 1-5 on the road trip with the losses coming by a combined 15 points.
A bright spot for Los Angeles on Sunday was the return of rookie guard Shaun Livingston, who had 10 points and nine assists off the bench. Livingston missed 39 games with a dislocated right kneecap.
“I’m very proud of the way Shaun came out and played,” Los Angeles forward Corey Maggette said. “He’s very poised and did exactly what we needed him to do. This is a guy who has a lot of potential to be a great point guard.”